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Holiday safety paramount as Christmas nears

Friday, December 11th, 2009 | 10:30 am

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Picking a fresh Christmas tree will help prevent any holiday accidents. (Photo Gary Moore)

Picking a fresh Christmas tree will help prevent any holiday accidents. (Photo Gary Moore)

By Holly Miyasaki

As the calendar¬† inches closer and closer to Christmas and visions of sugarplum fairies dance through people’s heads, it’s important to remember to be safe this season.

Whether you’re using a ladder to hang your Christmas lights, setting up your tree inside or locking up your car for the night there are a number of tips that are useful for a safe and memorable season.

Christmas tree safety from the West Kelowna Fire Department:

  • Before buying a Christmas tree, test it for freshness by tapping the base of the tree on the ground. If needles fall or can be pulled off easily, the tree is too dry.
  • Find a cool spot for your tree, at least three feet away from any heat source.
  • Keep live trees moist as possible by giving them plenty of fresh water daily.
  • Never use lit candles to decorate a tree and place them well away from tree branches.
  • When purchasing an artificial tree, be sure it is labelled as fire retardant.
  • Choose a sturdy tree stand designed to not tip over.
  • When decorating trees, always use safe tree lights. Never use electric lights on a metal tree.
  • Always unplug Christmas tree lights before leaving home or going to sleep.
  • Safely dispose of the tree when it begins to drop needles. Dried-out trees are highly flammable and should not be left in a house or garage, or placed against the house.

Decorating and lighting from the West Kelowna Fire Department:

  • Decorate with flame-resistant, flame-retardant or non-combustible materials.
  • Christmas wrapping and decorations can be highly combustible and should be kept away from heat sources.
  • Discard gift wrap and boxes with the garbage or recycle where appropriate; do not burn them in the fireplace.
  • Purchase only lights and electrical decorations bearing the name of an independent testing lab, and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for installation and maintenance.
  • Carefully inspect new and previously used light strings and replace damaged items before plugging lights in.
  • Do no overload extension cords.
  • Keep candles away from decorations and other combustible materials.
  • Store matches and lighters up high, out of the reach of children, preferably in a locked cabinet

Fireplace safety from

  • Do not burn gift wrapping, boxes, cartons or other types of packing – They burn too rapidly and generate more heat than your fireplace can handle.
  • Don’t hang stockings on the fireplace mantel when the fireplace is in use.
  • Always have a screen in front of the fireplace – This protects against flying sparks.
  • Never use gasoline or any other flammable liquids to start a fire.
  • Clean ashes regularly – put them in a metal container and store outside away from flammable materials.
  • Do not use Christmas trees for firewood.

Ladder safety from

  • Most ladders are meant to support one person.
  • Do not try to reach so far that you lose your balance; instead, simply move the ladder.
  • Place the ladder on a non-skid surface or add rubber treads to the bottom to prevent slippage.
  • Never stand on the ladder’s top three rungs.
  • Never use a broken ladder.
  • Don’t put a ladder’s base too close to the thing it is leaned against; the base should be spaced 1 foot away for every 4 feet it reaches up.
  • When using extension ladders, make sure that all locks are firmly secured.
  • When dealing with electrical equipment, never use a metal ladder.
  • Never use a wet ladder, as you may slip while climbing.

Snow shoveling from

  • Talk to your doctor about this activity and your health status before winter season arrives.
  • Think twice if you: have had a heart attack or have other forms of heart disease; have high blood pressure or high cholesterol levels; are a smoker; and lead a sedentary lifestyle.
  • Consider hiring a student or using a volunteer service if you are a senior.
  • Shovel at least one-two hours after eating and avoid caffeine and nicotine.
  • Warm up first (walk or march in place for several minutes before beginning).
  • Start slow and continue at a slow pace (Suggestion: shovel for 5-7 minutes and rest two-three minutes).
  • Drink lots of water to prevent dehydration.
  • Shovel early and often.


  • Shovel: sturdy yet lightweight is best (a small plastic blade is better than a large metal blade); an ergonomically correct model (curved handle) will help prevent injury and fatigue; spray the blade with a silicone-based lubricant (snow does not stick and slides off).
  • Clothing: wear multiple layers and cover as much skin as possible; wear a hat and scarf (make sure neither block your vision); wear mittens (tend to be warmer than gloves); wear boots with non-skid/no-slip rubber soles.


  • Always try to push snow rather than lifting it.
  • Protect your back by lifting properly and safely:
  • When snow is deep, shovel small amounts (1-2 inches at a time) at a time.
  • If the ground is icy or slippery, spread salt, sand or kitty litter to create better foot traction.

Vehicle protection from the RCMP:

  • Install an immobilizer in your vehicle.
  • Use a steering wheel lock every time you park your vehicle.
  • Always close your windows and lock your doors.
  • Take your possessions with you. With Christmas shopping going on, never leave your presents in plain view. Remember, thieves are shopping too.
  • Keep your spare keys in your wallet, not your car.
  • Avoid parking behind fences or hedges. Thieves love concealment.
  • At home, light your driveway all night if you park outside. Elsewhere park in well lit areas near pedestrian traffic.
  • After opening an automatic gate to underground parking, watch out for thieves waiting to slip inside. Wait for the gate to close behind you.
  • Engrave your stereo and other on-board valuables with your driver’s license number.
  • Ask an autoplan broker about the “Combat Auto Theft” (CAT” program. CAT stickers authorize police to quest anyone driving your vehicle between 1-5 a.m.

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