Firework safety: tips from the experts
With Halloween, Bonfire Night, Diwali, New Year's Eve and Chinese New Year fast approaching, we're now in the season of winter celebrations where fireworks play a huge part. Of course, we all want to enjoy the festivities and have a good time – and for many that means putting together a firework display at home.
But before you put match to fuse, why not read some of the smart advice listed below?
We’ve taken the key elements from the Firework Code and broken them down into some top tips for firework safety:
Only buy fireworks marked BS 7114
You wouldn’t drive a car that hadn’t been quality-checked, so why would you buy fireworks without the official British Standard markings? Before you buy, check the box for the code BS 7114. If the product you’re browsing doesn’t have that marking, don’t take the risk.
Don’t drink alcohol if setting off fireworks
This one doesn’t really need explaining. Drinking and driving is a no-no. So drinking and firing is a no-no too. If alcohol is part of your celebrations, let the sober members of your group handle the fireworks.
Keep fireworks in a closed box
Leaving your fireworks in an unlocked box leaves them free for anybody – including children – to get their hands on. That could be bad news. Assign one or two people to handle the fireworks and keep them in a locked room or storage box when they aren’t in use.
Follow the instructions
You don’t want your rockets upside down or your fountains facing the wrong way – and you certainly don’t want to light the wrong end of the fuse. Do yourself a favour and always read the instructions before using fireworks.
Keep your distance
Distance is important. Light fireworks at arm’s length, using a taper, and ensure that you and the crowd are standing well back for the duration of the display.
Never go near a firework that has been lit
If a firework doesn’t go off you are advised not to go near it. It could still be lit and it could still explode, so don’t take the risk.
Keep fireworks and other devices under control
There is always a risk when using fireworks as part of your celebration, but you should strive to keep them under control by following instructions, ensuring an open space in which to use them, and keeping crowds at a safe distance. Devices you have no control over – such as sky lanterns or 'floating fireworks' – should not be used due to the damage they can cause to farmland, animals, houses and the environment in general.
It is illegal to let off sky lanterns or balloons on council-owned land but private land owners should also think twice before releasing paper lanterns.
Never joke around with fireworks
While it might seem like fun to hold a lit firework or set one off from your coat pocket, these situations rarely end well. In 2016 alone there were 11,000 injuries and 4 deaths from fireworks, resulting in heartbreak for a number of UK families and putting a huge strain on the emergency services.
Always supervise children around fireworks
Children should be nowhere near fireworks, whether they’re alight or not. Fireworks should be stored out of reach of children in a locked box or room. When the firework display is happening, children should keep a safe distance and be watched by responsible adults at all time.
Consider the noise
Celebrating with fireworks is an important part of many cultures, but that doesn’t mean everybody wants to be subjected to the noise – especially those who are elderly or vulnerable. Consider your neighbours and, if you are planning a display, let them know in advance. It is illegal to set off fireworks between 11pm and 7am, except on Bonfire Night (midnight cut-off) and New Year’s Eve, Diwali and Chinese New Year (1am cut-off).
Want to know more? Get more information on noise pollution or report noisy neighbours.
Keep pets indoors
The noise of fireworks exploding can be frightening and disturbing for animals, often leading them to show signs of stress. Familiarise yourself with these signs and decide the ways in which you can comfort them. In its advice on looking after your pet during fireworks (external link), the PSDA suggests taking your dog for a walk well before fireworks begin, keeping doors and windows closed, and playing music to mask the sound.
Taking this advice into account will ensure a safe and enjoyable festive period for all.
This article was first published in October 2018 and updated in October 2019.