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Bonfire Night Safety

Tuesday 25 October 2022

Catherine Wheels, toffee apples, sparklers and baked potatoes… Just some of the reasons that so many of us love Bonfire Night (5 November).

But, whether you’re heading out to an organised firework display or planning your own celebration in your back garden, following some simple safety guidelines can help to ensure that everyone has fun this Bonfire Night.

This is particularly important for families with young children, who may not realise the risks posed by fireworks and sparklers. The latter burn 16 times hotter than a kettle according to Katrina Phillips, Chief Executive of the Child Accident Prevention Trust (CAPT), which has its own webpage dedicated to firework safety.

Safety advice from the CAPT

If you are holding your own firework display, the CAPT advises:

  • Place a marker on the ground – such as a rope – at a safe distance from the fireworks so that children can stand behind it.
  • Store fireworks in a metal box until you are ready to use them.
  • Use a torch rather than a naked flame to read instructions.
  • Light a firework by holding it at arm’s length and use a taper or firework lighter. Don’t use an ordinary lighter.
  • Don’t go back to a firework once it has been lit in case it explodes in your face. And never throw used fireworks onto the bonfire in case they still contain gunpowder.
  • Avoid alcohol if you are in charge of lighting fireworks.
  • Have a bonfire no less than 60 feet (18 metres) away from the house and surrounding trees, hedges, fences and sheds. Never pour petrol, paraffin or meths on it to light it.
  • Keep a bucket of water handy in case of an accident.
  • Avoid loose clothing and tie back long hair.
  • Use tongs or heatproof gloves when clearing away spent fireworks which could still be hot.
  • Remember sparklers burn at up to 1600 degrees, which is 16 times the boiling point of water, so treat them with extreme care.
  • Don’t hold a baby or young child when you are holding a sparkler as they can reach out unexpectedly and grab them.
  • Avoid giving sparklers to under-5s.

The Royal Society for Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA)’s firework safety page urges everyone who is holding a firework display to familiarise themselves with the Firework Code. It has a free downloadable resource pack to help people stay safe around fireworks.

RoSPA advises only buying fireworks that carry the CE or UKCA marks. All fireworks on sale to the public are classified as either category F2 or F3, which refers to their noise limit and how much space they require.

Category F2 fireworks (garden fireworks) require an 8 metre or 15 metre amount of space. Category F3 fireworks (display fireworks) require a minimum of 25 metres. There are also Category F4 fireworks (industrial fireworks) which are for professional use only and can be extremely dangerous.

In an emergency, if anyone’s clothes catch fire, the advice is to:

  • Stop what you are doing
  • Drop to the ground and cover your face with your hands
  • Roll over and over to put out the flames

If you have children, get them to practice this before you hold your firework display so they know what to do.

If a child sustains a burn, you should:

  • Cool it for at least 20 minutes under running water to minimise scarring.
  • Call for help for any burn larger than a 50p coin.
  • Cover the burn loosely with clingfilm or a clean, non-fluffy dressing or cloth.

Don’t touch the burn or try to pull away any clothing that might be stuck to it. If it is an emergency dial 999. Remember to keep animals indoors on Bonfire Night.

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