'The vitals' battling through the snow in the West Midlands

The snow has led to school closures, people working from home and events being cancelled across the West Midlands.

But how do the people manage who have no choice than to battle through it?

One of the jobs that has to continue whatever the weather is that of undertakers, especially during their busiest season.

"We've only had to cancel one funeral this time - it was last Friday and it was because the family were concerned not everyone would be able to make it in the heavy snow," said Georgia Spilsbury, of Malvern-based undertakers F W Spilsbury.

"It can be a bit tricky to get a hearse through icy conditions, but people rely on us because it's not something you can keep postponing, so we have to find a way. We have to rely on good luck and some expert driving.

Image caption Ambulance chiefs said they had coped well, despite an increase in 999 calls

"You also have to be careful - the last thing you want to do is cause another funeral in the process."

Across the West Midlands' hospitals, contingency plans have been in place to ensure those most at need do not suffer in the freezing conditions.

At Birmingham Children's Hospital, staff have been given overnight accommodation on nights when it was unsure if they would be able to get home - or back to work - in heavy snow.

James Shanahan, head of emergency planning at the hospital, said some patients had been unable to attend appointments because of the weather, but on the whole it had been "business as usual".

Meanwhile, West Midlands Ambulance said all of its first-response vehicles were 4x4s and said paramedics had been able to cope well, despite the large increase in 999 calls because of slips and falls on the ice.

Its ambulances also come equipped with "snow socks" - covers which fit around tyres to give extra grip when either stuck in snow, or for driving on ice.

'Common sense'

And to help out the ambulances, there is an army of 20 volunteers who offer their 4x4 vehicles and driving skills to help those otherwise stranded across the region.

Simon Brothwood, chairman of West Midlands 4x4 Response, said the past few days had been "mental", having been called out more than 150 times since Friday.

"The snow's been bad - much, much worse than last year - across the whole of the West Midlands," he said.

"We've helped all sorts of people - we were told that by helping district nurses get around in Birmingham, we'd helped save at least 30 to 50 ambulance trips."

However, he added that if members of the public used "common sense" it would help them.

"We got one call from a man who just wanted a lift to his car," he said.

"And at one point, one of our people was following an ambulance through a particularly snowy area. Drivers pulled over to left the ambulance through, but some idiots jumped in behind them and wouldn't let us through, even though it was obvious we were with the ambulance."

In Birmingham, many of the Meals on Wheels are now provided as a stock of frozen microwavable meals, so most people will have a supply to see them through the snowy weather.

'Snow champions'

A spokeswoman for the city council said that in other cases, measures were taken to ensure the meals would get to those in need, including parking in nearby roads that are not so icy and walking the rest of the way.

In the Sandwell Council area, where dozens of people have taken part in the second year of the "snow champions" volunteer scheme clearing snow in their own neighbourhoods, gritter drivers have also been working 12-hour shifts to deal with the conditions.

Hagley Road resident Francis Clarke also praised the work of Amey, which is employed by Birmingham City Council to grit roads, after he saw workers also clearing footpaths at Five Ways.

"Quite often the roads are seen as better and the pavements get forgotten," he said.

"And I think that by updating people about gritting on Twitter like Amey and the city council do, it engages people and makes them realise there are human beings out there doing a tough job."

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