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Lake Okanagan Resort

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 calendarĀ  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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