Bonfire Night is one of the most traditional and fun nights of the British cultural calendar. However, mixing merriment, kids, pets, and crowds with fireworks and flames can also make it the most dangerous. Fortunately, there are plenty of things you can do to make sure your night goes off with a bang, in the best possible sense. This is our guide to doing Bonfire Night safely by following the laws and codes that regulate fireworks use.
Bonfire Night Safety
Bonfire Night injury statistics
NHS doctors and St John Ambulance urge revellers to stay safe on Bonfire Night and Diwali, as figures reveal thousands are admitted to hospital each year with firework and bonfire injuries.
According to NHS Digital, there were almost 2,000 A&E admissions linked to fireworks in 2018/19, and the injury statistics are particularly alarming where children are concerned. Typically, around 600 children under the age of 16 are taken to A&E in the weeks surrounding Bonfire Night.
Sparklers are often seen as a relatively harmless way of allowing young children to participate in the fun. This isn’t strictly true though, as sparklers can reach temperatures of up to 1600°C, meaning that they can pose dangers too.
The statistics around injuries on and around Bonfire Night highlight the importance of celebrating safely, with a priority of making sure adults supervise children all night.
The firework code: using fireworks safely
It's much safer to attend an organised bonfire display, but if you're thinking of using shop-bought fireworks, following the safety advice below can help to ensure that everyone has a good time without getting hurt.
• Stand well back from the bonfire
• Keep pets indoors
• Keep fireworks in a closed box when not in use
• Only buy fireworks that are CE marked
• Light fireworks at arm’s length
• Follow the instructions for each firework
• Never give sparklers to a child under five
• Always supervise children around fireworks
• Avoid alcohol entirely if setting off fireworks
• Light sparklers one at a time and wear gloves
• Never put fireworks in your pocket or throw them
• Never go near a firework that has been lit - even if it hasn’t gone off it could still explode
• Keep a bucket of water close by for emergencies
These are some relatively simple rules for staying safe, and by following them closely, you will significantly reduce your risk of injury. Remember, you should always pay attention to any children present and supervise them closely if you decide to let them handle sparklers. It’s also worth remembering that temperatures plummet on November nights, so wrap up warm with hats, gloves, and scarves.
Investing in a metal storage box to store your fireworks in before they’re used is an important safety consideration, keeping them safe from sparks and other flames at the night. You’ll also need a torch for reading the firework instructions, as well as a non-flammable board for flat-bottomed fireworks.
What fireworks to buy
There are different categories of fireworks, and the public can buy and use categories 1 to 3. To avoid any nasty surprises, always purchase fireworks from a reputable shop to ensure that they conform to British Standards (BS 7114 will be written on the box).
Setting fireworks off safely
Ideally, one person should be in charge of the fireworks and should take the necessary precautions before setting them off. If you are in charge, read the instructions in daylight and avoid drinking alcohol until they’ve all been discharged.
Ensure you have the following items on hand:
Fireworks and the law
There are firework laws covering sales restrictions and the appropriate times they can be used. If you are under 18, you cannot buy the types of fireworks which can be sold only to adults or possess fireworks in public places. Flouting these rules can result in an £80 on-the-spot fine from the police.
Setting off or throwing fireworks in the street or other public places is also strictly prohibited and could land you a fine of up to £5,000 and a short prison sentence. Generally, you should not set off fireworks from 11 pm-7 am, except during certain celebrations. Visit your local council website for more legal information on fireworks.
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