Bonfire Night is a major celebration in the UK, with many premises now hosting events. If you are thinking about organising a bonfire and
holding a firework display, Take Stock gives you the low-down on how to make the event a safe one.
• Set up a group so members can each take responsibility for a particular task (including one person to be in charge of all safety arrangements).
• Don’t site the bonfire too near to your display or firework storage area.
• Don’t build the bonfire with dangerous items (e.g. aerosols, paint tins or foam-filled furniture).
• Remove any rubbish from your bonfire area in advance so there’s nothing that can be thrown onto the fire on the night.
• Recruit people with previous experience of firework displays. Have as few people as possible actually involved with the fireworks.
• Make sure the emergency services are aware of your plans.
• Fireworks not marked with ‘Complies with BS 7114 Part 2 1988’ are suitable for use only by professionals.
• Store the fireworks securely.
• Choose a large, clear and well-mown area free from obstructions, well away from any buildings, trees and hazards like overhead cables.
On the day
• The first aid post should be managed by qualified people and have plenty of torches.
• Fire extinguishers, buckets of water and sand, and metal litter bins should be readily available.
• Don’t allow spectators to bring in their own sparklers or other fireworks.
• Ensure entrances are well lit, clearly signposted and kept free from obstructions.
• Be aware of animals close by.
• Make proper provision for disabled spectators.
• Keep the display away from your car park, as falling fireworks can cause damage.
• Seek advice from the police regarding the maximum numbers you are allowed at your event.
• Members of the organisational team should be restricted from drinking anything alcoholic when on patrol.
Lighting your own firework display
• Take great care at all times.
• Restrict the number of people that are involved with the fireworks.
• Read the instructions (by torchlight), angle away from spectators and don’t allow the handler to smoke.
• Never use matches or lighters to light the display. If a firework doesn’t go off, wait at least half an hour and then douse it in a bucket of water.
• Allow at least 50m x 20m for your firing area. Beyond this you will need a dropping zone for spent fireworks of 100m x 50m in the downwind direction.
• For lighting display type fireworks, a device called Portfire is often provided by the manufacturer, so use when available and light at arm’s length.
• Spectators should be kept back on the opposite side to the dropping zone at least 25m from the firing area.
• Wear protective clothing, e.g. hard hat, eye protection, fire retardant overalls and gloves.
• A sudden change of wind could cause aerial fireworks to fall dangerously on spectators. In very windy weather, you should consider cancelling the display.
• Make sure you are covered under your insurance for public liability with fireworks.
Lighting your bonfire
• Never use flammable liquids like paraffin or petrol to start your bonfire.
• Check before lighting that there are no animals or young children hidden inside.
• Never put fireworks on a bonfire, even if you believe them to be dead.
If you decide to use a professional team for your display then category 4 fireworks will be used. A display may cost anything from £100 a minute, so you’re looking at a minimum cost of around £1,000, though a full, electronically-controlled display will be considerably more – it’s easy to spend over £5,000. Make sure the company has the required insurance, hold BPA qualifications (British Pyrotechnists Association), have conducted a site survey and you have been given a copy of their insurance certificate, their BPA registration number, a hard copy of the site survey and risk assessment, and a written quotation.
• You can’t buy ‘adult’ fireworks if you’re under 18.
• Fireworks can’t be set off between 11pm and 7am, except for Bonfire Night, when the cut off is midnight.
• Adult fireworks are category 2 and 3 fireworks – they don’t include party poppers.
• Category 4 fireworks can only be used by professionals.
• Don’t set off or throw fireworks (including sparklers) in the street or other public places.
• Check with your council to find out about any local rules for setting off fireworks.
• For Bonfire Night, you can only buy fireworks (including sparklers) from registered sellers for private use from 15 October to 10 November.
• You can be fined up to £5,000 and imprisoned for up to 6 months for selling or using fireworks illegally. You could also get an on-the-spot fine of £90.
• Clear spectators safely from the site.
• Ensure the bonfire is completely extinguished.
• Spent firework cases must be gathered. Spot used fireworks with a torch and use tongs or other suitable tool, and wear strong gloves.
• Don’t allow any children to collect firework cases.
• Burning the spent cases is potentially dangerous and should be avoided.
• If any fireworks look as if they haven’t gone off after at least half an hour, douse them in a bucket of water.
Sources: fireservice.co.uk, gov.uk