Last reviewed 19 October 2017

Remember, remember the fifth of November and remember it for all the right reasons if arranging a public (or indeed private) event; the event should be full of happiness, fun and wonder. Val Moore has been looking at advice given by the Fire Service.

Planning

The people

Have a committee so each member can take responsibility for each task. Have one person in overall charge of safety arrangements. Be clear about who will do what and when. Ideally, at least one person should have previous experience of firework displays. Have a detailed checklist of tasks and who the responsible person is for each one.

Other interested parties

It is a busy night of the year, so ensure the relevant authorities are aware of the event. The Fire and Rescue Service (FRS); if within five miles of the coast, the Coastguard; if near an airfield, the Civil Aviation Authority and the Police, and ask whether you will need a storage and or explosives licence.

They will need information such as the location, the entrances and exits, the timings, the location of the display and the arrangements for spectators and parking, and emergency mobile telephone numbers.

Inform neighbours, farmers, vets, kennels, catteries, etc in the neighbourhood so they can take the necessary precautions.

The fireworks

These should be marked “Complies with BS 7114 Part 2 1988”: any others are for use only by professionals.

In advance

The fireworks should be delivered and stored securely and the manufacturers’ instructions circulated to those involved.

Ensure

  • There is suitable insurance policy in place.

  • The team is suitably trained, including emergency drills.

  • That there will be qualified first aiders on the night — engage a voluntary service if necessary. The team should be identifiable (ie bibs, jackets, etc) either borrowed or bought and equipped with fully charged torches. You can never have too many torches.

  • A public address system is necessary as a safety measure, as well as for commentary.

  • There are fire extinguishers, buckets of water and buckets of sand and metal litter bins.

  • Prepare suitable signage that will inform all spectators where they can and cannot go: what they can and cannot do.

When advertising the event, make absolutely clear that spectators cannot bring their own fireworks (not even sparklers). Enforce this on the night.

Choosing a site

Choose a large, clear and well-mown area, free from obstructions, well away from any buildings, trees and hazards like overhead cables, with as many safe entrances and exits as possible. These must be away from the firing area and dropping zone.

Make sure that all entrances are well lit, clearly sign-posted and kept free from obstructions. Clear away any undergrowth or very long grass. Have plenty of (metal) litter bins. Ensure you can cater properly for disabled spectators. Watch out for any animals likely to be housed nearby. 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. Spectators should be kept back on the opposite side to the dropping zone at least 25m from the firing area.

The car park should be well signed and well away from the display and dropping zone.

On the night

Spectator safety

There should be at least one steward for every 250 spectators for good crowd control and enforcing the car parking rules. Spectators must not enter the display area (the display should be stopped if they do). Good signage is essential, as is enforcing the rules. Again, no spectator should bring in their own fireworks.

Letting off the fireworks

Have as few people as possible actually involved with the fireworks. Plan the display in advance so everyone knows what will be let off and in what order. The fireworks should be kept in a closed, secure box and only brought out when they are to be lit. Read the instructions carefully, by torchlight. It should not need to be said that those involved should not smoke and fireworks kept away from naked flames and flammable material and any bonfire. Be aware fireworks are fragile and easily broken.

The wind direction should be away from spectators and the display angled away from them. If it gets very windy, seriously consider cancelling or curtailing the event.

To light fireworks, use a “Portfire” device usually provided by the manufacturer: as an alternative use other types of safety lighters, such as a slow match. Never use matches or lighters. Never carry these devices in pockets, but in a suitable box. Light fireworks at arm’s length. Do not go back to any firework that fails to go off; leave it for at least 30 minutes before returning to it.

Bonfires

Do you really need one?

They are a hazard and firework displays often go well without them. If you do, have one person responsible throughout from planning to clearing up.

Site well away from the display area, firework storage area, fences, trees, etc. Before lighting, ensure no animals or small children are inside. Do not use liquids like paraffin or petrol to start and encourage the fire. Never put fireworks on a bonfire or burn dangerous rubbish (ie aerosols, paint tins or foam-filled furniture).

At the end of the night

Spectators need to be safely cleared from the site. The bonfire put completely out. Spent firework cases must be gathered up. Use a torch to spot fireworks and pick them up with a suitable tool and wear strong gloves. Never let children gather firework cases.

Burning the spent cases can be dangerous and should be done with great care. Any firework that may not have gone off should be doused in a bucket of water and ask the FRS for advice.

Have a safe, fun event. A quote from Jan Struther, In childhood the daylight always fails too soon — except when there are going to be fireworks.

The Fire Services offers more advice at www.fireservice.co.uk.