Fireworks and bonfire evenings provide great entertainment as long as everyone follows the right safety procedures and remembers that fireworks can be dangerous if misused.
The safest way to enjoy these seasonal activities is to attend a professionally organised event and we encourage you to do so rather than set off fireworks yourself.
If you are having your own celebration use common sense and follow some simple safety tips to help you and your loved ones avoid injuries or damage to your property.
- Plan your firework display to make it safe and enjoyable. See information below for further details
- Respect your neighbours – don't let off fireworks late at night and let them know you will be having a display. They may need to keep pets or livestock indoors
- Only buy fireworks with a CE mark, and ensure you purchase them from a reputable supplier.
- Don't drink alcohol if you're setting off fireworks
- Keep fireworks in a closed metal box and always follow the instructions carefully when using them
- Read the instructions in daylight or by torchlight, never by a naked flame
- Be aware of wind direction and ensure you have sufficient space
- Light fireworks at arm's length using a taper and stand well back
- Never go back to them once they are lit. Even if a firework hasn't gone off, it could still explode
- Never throw fireworks, and never put them in your pocket
- Take care with sparklers. They burn at 2000 degrees centigrade. Never give them to children under five. Even when they've gone out they're still hot, so put sparklers in a bucket of water after use
- Keep your pets indoors throughout the evening.
If your clothes catch fire
- STOP where you are
- DROP to the ground
- ROLL around to put the fire out
- COOL the burn or scald under cool running water for at least 20 minutes
- CALL for help, in an emergency call 999
- COVER with loose cling film.
The Health and Safety Executive offer more information about organising safe firework displays.
Organising larger firework displays and public events
Large events should be organised by professionals. If in doubt, you should engage their services rather than host the event yourself. You should allow adequate time in the build up to your display to prepare and plan your event.
This includes allowing time for site visits, risk assessment and informing the emergency services of your plans if they involve large numbers of people. It is a considerable responsibility to organise a large event and you must ensure you have fulfilled your duty to keep people and the environment safe.
The Explosive Industry Group has produced a guide for non-professional firework displays (those without specialist knowledge or training) and also a guide for those employing professionals to give firework displays. You should refer to these guides well before you plan to carry out your display.
The National Fire Chief's Council has a range of documentation that can be used for events of all sizes, held by any type of organisation or individual. The documentation includes an organiser's checklist, fire risk assessment templates, an assessment matrix and a tactical plan template.
Fireworks and the law
It is an offence for anyone under the age of 18 to possess fireworks in public places, and an offence for anyone, other than a firework professional, to possess professional display fireworks.
Police have the power to issue fixed penalty notices to those under the age of 18 caught with fireworks in a public place. It is also illegal to set fireworks off between 11pm and 7am except in the following cases:
- Bonfire Night 5 November until midnight
- Diwali 1am on the following day
- New Year's Eve 1am on the following day
- Chinese New Year 1am on the following day
- Using flammable liquids to help start a bonfire is dangerous, as is burning dangerous items such as aerosol cans, paint tins, foam furniture or batteries
- Build your bonfire well clear of buildings, garden sheds, fences, hedges and overhanging branches.
- Keep bonfires to a manageable size and evenly built so that they collapse inwards as they burn
- Always check the bonfire's construction is still sound prior to lighting it, that there are no children or animals inside and that hazardous items such as aerosols and fireworks have not been thrown onto it
- Bonfires should be lit after the firework display unless positioned sufficiently far away to ensure stray sparks from the bonfire cannot fall into the firework area
- Never leave bonfires unattended. We always suggest that an adult should supervise it until it has burnt out. If it has to be left, damp it down with water
- Keep a bucket of water or hosepipe nearby in case of emergency
- Make sure that the fire is out and surroundings are made safe before leaving.