It is the time of year when families and friends gather to watch the autumn sky lit up with stunning fireworks displays and huddle together around bonfires eating toffee apples and sipping mulled wine. But, unfortunately, every year there are thousands of people who remember the 5th November for all the wrong reasons, with figures showing a worrying increasing trend. Last year alone, West Midlands Fire Service received 356 emergency calls on Bonfire Night - up from 197 the previous year, whilst figures from 2014/15 show that 4,506 people nationally visited A&E for treatment of a firework-related injury, a huge 111% rise on the figures recorded for 2009/10.
The professionals recommend that you attend a properly organised event but, if you are hosting your own Bonfire Night party, make sure to follow these safety tips:
- Only buy fireworks marked BS 7114 or with a CE mark, which shows that they meet British or European safety standards
- Only buy fireworks from a reputable shop, never from a temporary or unlicensed stall (it is never a good idea to save a few pennies on fireworks by purchasing them from a van)
- If the boxes look damaged or tampered with in any way, go somewhere else
- Store your fireworks in a closed box somewhere cool and read the instructions carefully. (Make sure you read them in daylight or by torch - never by a naked flame)
- Have a bucket of water and something to stand the fireworks up in (such as earth or sand) on standby as well as goggles and gloves
- Let one person have responsibility for lighting fireworks and make sure that person is sober
- Light fireworks at arm’s length using a taper, and never ever return to one once it has been lit (even if it hasn’t gone off it could still explode without warning)
- Never throw fireworks or put used ones on a bonfire
- Use gloves to light sparklers one at a time and always supervise children holding them
- Put used sparklers hot end down in a bucket of sand or water
- Refrain from using sky lanterns. Although they can be a beautiful sight, they use the heat of a naked flame to float and in the past have led to huge blazes, been mistaken for distress flares, killed livestock and misled aircraft.
- Build bonfires away from sheds, fences and trees
- Tell your neighbours in advance. It is not illegal to have a bonfire, but it is against the law for them to cause a nuisance. Make sure neighbours are aware so they can close their windows or remove clothes from washing lines
- Check there are no cables, such as telephone wires, above bonfires
- Never use petrol or paraffin to get the fire going
- Don’t burn aerosols, tyres, canisters or anything containing foam or paint - many produce toxic fumes and some containers may explode
- Never leave a bonfire unattended and once it has died down, spray the embers with water to ensure it is completely extinguished before leaving it
- Keep pets indoors during Bonfire Night celebrations. It is against the law to cause any unnecessary suffering to domestic or captive animals and many are scared by the lights and noise synonymous with the event.