October 23, 2021

Local agencies prepare for safe holiday weekend

Todd R. McAdam/contributing photographer

The U.S. flag flies over downtown Cortland on in this Cortland Standard file photo.

Despite all of the changes brought into the world during the coronavirus pandemic, members of local law enforcement and safety agencies in Cortland County will be on the lookout to make sure Memorial Day weekend is safe.

Officers from the Cortland County Sheriff’s Office, state police Cortland Police Department, Homer Police Department and others will step up patrols through the New York State STOP-DWI Memorial Day Crackdown to stop people driving while intoxicated, Sheriff Mark Helms.

The program, which the sheriff’s office is coordinating across the county, provides funding for increased patrols during the weekend, he said.

“Our main objective is to save lives with this,” said Homer Police Chief Robert Pitman. “Drinking and driving, it kills. So we’re just trying to save lives.”

Helms also said his office plans to have marine patrols on lakes at least on one of the days this weekend.

With many entertainment venues and recreational facilities still closed, Helms said he wasn’t sure whether the county might see a decrease in the number of people traveling. He did speculate that with nice weather expected for the weekend, people may just cruise around in their cars.

“We’ll find out soon,” he said.

Pitman said that because of the pandemic, any parties or get-togethers will be smaller and scaled back than what they would have been in the past.

More so, he thinks many may just stay home.

Neither the sheriff’s office and the Homer Police Department will actively look to crack down on large gatherings unless they are in public where patrolling officers can see — or if someone complains.

Helms and Pitman both also recommend that people continue to take safety precautions: maintain at least 6 feet separation; wearing masks when in close contact; be responsible, especially in regard to drinking alcohol.

For people planning to grill, Cortland Fire Chief Wayne Friedman recommends that people take these precautions:

  • Don’t grill on an enclosed deck.
  • Don’t grill on a second-floor balcony.
  • Don’t have the grill near flammable objects.
  • Keep the grill away from the house.
  • Make sure to thoroughly clean the grill before use.

The Firemen’s Association of the State of New York, citing statistics from the National Fire Protection Association, reports “from 2014-2018, an average of 19,700 patients per year went to emergency rooms because of injuries involving grills and gas grills were involved in an average of 8,900 home fires per year, including 3,900 structure fires and 4,900 outdoor fires annually.”

“This may be the first time the grill has been used since last year and it may have deteriorated over the winter,” Friedman said. “If it’s not in good shape, there’s always a chance of fire or personal injury.”

Friedman said he wasn’t sure how people will mark the weekend because of the pandemic.

“I’d be curious to see how it actually is because people have been restricted on what they do,” he said.

Tips for safe grilling

  • Propane and charcoal grills should be used outdoors only.
  • The grill should be placed well away from the home, deck railings and out from under leaves and overhanging branches.
  • Keep children and pets at least three feet away from the grill area.
  • Remove grease or fat buildup from the grills and in trays below the grill.
  • Never leave your grill unattended.
  • Always make sure your gas grill lid is open before lighting it.