Bonfire? Fireworks? Safety first!

It’s Bonfire Night next Tuesday, so if you’re planning a fireworks party or lighting a bonfire over the weekend, there are essential safety tips you need to follow to make sure everyone stays safe – remember, you’re playing with fire AND explosives, here.

Choosing your fireworks

Only buy fireworks marked BS7114. This will be shown both on the selection box and the individual fireworks.

The British Standard for Fireworks defines four types of firework:

Category 1 – Indoor fireworks, for use in extremely restricted areas.
Category 2 – Garden fireworks, for use in limited areas
Category 3 – For use in open areas
Category 4 – For use by professionals only

Lighting the fireworks

  • Keep fireworks in a closed, preferably tin, box – never put them in your pocket or leave them lying around
  • Nominate one person to be in charge of lighting fireworks
  • Never drink alcohol before setting off fireworks
  • Stick to the instructions on each firework and use a torch so you can read them clearly
  • Light them at arm’s length using a taper and never a naked flame
  • When lit, stand well back and make sure everyone else is well back
  • Only let off one firework at a time and direct any rockets away from spectators
  • Never go near a firework once it has been lit, even if it’s not gone off it could still explode
  • Once the firework has completely gone off place the remains in a bucket of water
  • Never let fireworks off after 11pm
  • Once the night is over you can put the dead, wet fireworks safely in the bin.

And you’ll also need to consider the following…

  • Never throw fireworks – not only is it dangerous, it’s a criminal offence carrying a £5,000 penalty
  • Always supervise children around fireworks and keep pets indoors
  • You’ll need a board or some sort of flat, non-flammable, rigid surface for flat-bottomed fireworks
  • Use a bucket or container of soft earth to stick fireworks in
  • Make sure Catherine wheels are securely fastened before lighting them.

Sparkler safety

Sparklers are usually bought for the kids, but who doesn’t have fun spelling their name – or any other words you can think of – by waving a sparkling stick in the air?

  • Light and use sparklers one at a time and wear gloves so you don’t get burnt – three sparklers burning together generate the same heat as a blowtorch used to weld metal
  • Never give sparklers to a child under five-years-old
  • Hold sparklers horizontally and as far away from your body and face
  • Never wave sparklers near another person
  • Never touch the end of the sparkler, even long after it’s stopped burning
  • Dispose of sparklers in a bucket of water.

Bonfire safety

If you’ll also be lighting a bonfire at your fireworks party, there are additional safety issues to consider…

  • Tell neighbours of your plans beforehand so they can make necessary preparations
  • Build the fire carefully so it burns evenly and doesn’t collapse or topple sideways
  • Only burn dry material – anything wet or damp will cause more smoke – and never use paraffin or petrol to start the fire, things can quickly get out of control
  • Make sure the fire is well away from buildings, fences and overhanging trees or bushes
  • Make sure there are no cables, such as telephone wires, overhanging the bonfire
  • Nominate one person to be in charge of lighting and maintaining control of the fire
  • Mark a boundary around the fire that people mustn’t cross
  • Have buckets of water or a garden hose prepared just in case anything goes wrong
  • Keep children under close supervision and make sure pets are indoors
  • Never leave the bonfire unattended
  • Never throw fireworks into the bonfire, event spent ones
  • Don’t burn aerosols, tyres, canisters or anything containing paint or foam as they could explode or produce toxic fumes
  • When the bonfire has died down, use the buckets of water or hose to soak the remains and stop them reigniting.

Make sure you’re covered

Even if you take all the necessary precautions there’s no guarantee things won’t go wrong so make sure you’ve got adequate home insurance that also covers gardens and any outbuildings.

If you’re hosting a party, it’s also a good idea to make sure your policy has adequate personal liability cover for yourself and any guests – if someone gets injured you could be held liable.

And this is also peak season for house breaking, so if you’re going to be out for Bonfire Night, follow our top tips to keep the burglars at bay.

For your information…

If you’re of a certain age, there’s a good chance The Firework Code is ingrained in the deepest recesses of your mind – the number of public information films that were on telly during the 70s and 80s will have seen to that. But you can never be too careful, so here’s a reminder…

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