Anne Hailes: I'm following the government's orders and have my batteries, torches, candles, gas stove and stack of warm jumpers ready for the winter apocalypse

Anne Hailes

Anne Hailes

Anne is Northern Ireland's first lady of journalism, having worked in the media since she joined Ulster Television when she was 17. Her columns have been entertaining and informing Irish News readers for 25 years.

Anne's visit to Edinburgh was made easier by airport special assistance services
Anne's visit to Edinburgh was made easier by airport special assistance services

The weather is unpredictable, there are warnings going out right, left and centre – the government says to stock up on battery-powered radios, torches, candles and first aid kits in order to prepare for power cuts or digital communications going down.

I’d add plenty of batteries, a little gas cannister cooker and plenty of warm jumpers from the wardrobe. And now four of Northern Ireland’s top utility companies are publicising telephone numbers so you can get help when you need it.

As Sara Venning, CEO of Northern Ireland Water, explains: “While we cannot prevent adverse weather we can try to prepare for it.

"The aim of this campaign is to give advice to customers on how to prepare for potential interruptions to water, broadband, gas or electricity.

"The campaign is also an opportunity to raise awareness of the services we have for vulnerable customers; those who need a little extra support at any time of the year. We have special teams and resources in place to provide additional assistance where needed.”

Read more:

  • Anne Hailes: We all need to stop for a minute – and appreciate the sound of silence
  • Anne Hailes: A soda and a pint in Ardara, where corpses rise from the dead...
  • Anne Hailes: Frenzied 'monster' machines discovered deep beneath Kilroot

This is very reassuring.

“We all have dedicated, experienced staff working behind the scenes 24/7 to keep our networks operating," says Sara.

"If we do experience damage to our networks, our engineers will mobilise as soon as it is safe to do so to get our customers connected again as quickly as possible.”

To report any faults or in the case of any emergencies please contact:

:: NI Water: 03457 44 00 88/

:: NIE Networks: 03457 643 643/

:: Openreach: 08000 23 20 23/

:: Phoenix Energy: 03454 55 55 55/


SOME are, and many will leave from Belfast City Airport. It’s a complex route to the front door so, if you aren’t acquainted with the ins and outs, advise your driver to take time and follow the instructions and have a contactless card to lift the exit barrier.

Able-bodied travellers will have no problem negotiating their way to the plane steps but anyone with mobility issues can take advantage of the assisted travel.

I did this recently, flying Aer Lingus to Edinburgh, and it was brilliant and I’d like to pass on the information.

First of all, when I was booking my ticket under ‘passenger details’ there’s a section for 'Special Assistance'. There is no charge for this service.

When my husband dropped me off it was a matter of pressing a button which is easy to see and a lady came with a chair on wheels (no longer a 'wheel chair') and transported me and my case to the check-in

She stayed with me as I passed over my ticket and passport; she lifted my case on to the conveyor belt and then took me to a dedicated waiting area for those needing special assistance.

I stayed there for about 20 minutes – time to visit the loo and buy a newspaper before my assistant arrived back and took me straight through to the hand baggage security point, and so down the long passageway to the final check-in gate.

Then, before anyone else was allowed to board, I was taken to the bottom of the steps and helped up into the cabin and seated. It's a good idea to write your seat number on your hand – it saves time.

Anne's visit to Edinburgh was made easier by airport special assistance services
Anne's visit to Edinburgh was made easier by airport special assistance services


I was asked to remain in my seat after landing at Edinburgh airport until all others had left the plane. Then it was my turn; there, waiting for me at the steps, was another chair and a smiling assistant.

Then it was off to the carousel where my bag was retrieved by Anna and placed on the shelf under the chair. After that, I was whizzed to the front door – for you it could be the bus stop – to rendezvous with family.

Coming home to Belfast was just as easy. The assisted travel office is at the front door and here I picked up my chair.

Kelly checked my bag in and, as I was nice and early, I was left sitting in a very comfortable, designated area beside shops and restaurants. I had time for a lovely meal and was back to meet up with Kelly and board the plane.

Walking would have been impossible because of pain so I appreciated the help and urge you to investigate it – there is no embarrassment in asking for such willing assistance.

Back in Belfast, the chair was waiting for me at the bottom of the steps; off to the carousel to collect my bag and then out to the pick-up area for a taxi or – for me – my husband, who was able to pull in and wait long enough for me to say goodbye to Richard once he had put my bag into the car. Then it was home for tea...