‘Don’t mix fireworks and alcohol’: First responders share New Year’s Eve safety tips

BUCKHANNON – Local law enforcement and emergency responders implored the community to have fun this New Year’s Eve and drink responsibly.

Chief Deputy Mike Coffman with the Upshur County Sheriff’s Office said one of their most common calls on New Year’s Eve involves alcohol.

“Most of them are alcohol-related, whether it’s drinking and driving, or a lot of times people are together and get drinking, and sometimes, a domestic situation can arise out of that,” Coffman said. “I would just say be responsible and if they are going out to drink, make sure they have a designated driver and be aware of the other drivers who may be drinking on the road as well.”

Coffman said when he was an Upshur County magistrate, he saw several DUIs on New Year’s Eve throughout the years.

“You’d have two, three or four DUIs sometimes,” Coffman recalled. “I know the first year I started, I was on call starting Jan. 1 and at midnight, I think we had three or four DUIs that had to be arraigned, and that’s how I started. “I don’t think people understand the ramifications of a DUI — the long-term ramifications of that – the related costs, through insurance and all that stuff, and obviously if they wreck, there is liability behind that as well.”

Lieutenant Doug Loudin with the Buckhannon Police Department recommended always having a designated driver.

“Either stay where you are or have a driver and the designated driver shouldn’t be the one that has the least number of drinks; the driver should be somebody that doesn’t drink at all,” Loudin said. “Anytime you drink alcohol to excess, it slows your motor skills, your thought process and impairs judgment. Don’t drink to the point that it impairs your judgment.”

Career firefighter Ethan Smith with the Buckhannon Fire Department encouraged anyone celebrating with fireworks, to use them safely.

“Don’t allow your children to set off fireworks and make sure they’re supervised when you use sparklers and stuff like that,” Smith said. “Don’t set off any aerial fireworks close to your house or close to a building or anywhere that it could come back down and cause a fire of some sort and don’t mix alcohol and fireworks.”

Within city limits, fireworks may only be set off between 11 a.m. Dec. 31 and 12:30 p.m. Jan. 1, according to a City of Buckhannon ordinance regulating their usage.

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