BRITISH Gas is being forced to put its winter contingency plans into place because of the dreadful summer weather.
Engineers are on standby to cope with a predicted surge in demand for central heating - very unusual in July and August.
Temperatures are predicted to plunge below the central heating `trigger figure' of 15°C in West Yorkshire and the company is preparing for a big increase in demand as homeowners switch on the heating.
The unseasonable weather of the last week has already meant a 13% increase in gas consumption compared to the same time last year.
And the company is predicting demand and emergency call outs may not yet have reached their peak.
Dave Kendle, director of British Gas Home Services, said: "Whenever the temperature drops below 15°C we see an immediate increase in central heating call-outs.
"We're making sure we've got more hands on deck to answer calls and more engineers on standby to deal with the breakdowns."
* Switch on your central heating for a short while once a month during the summer (even during hot spells) to help keep it in good working order.
* After storms clean out drains and guttering - piles of soggy leaves can lead to blockages.
* Get your boiler and central heating system checked annually by a Corgi registered engineer.
* Keep your local electricity distribution company's telephone number to hand in case there's a power cut and all the lights go out.