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How to prepare a safe firework display

People looking at fireworks bursting over the trees in a night sky

This is a longer blog post than usual. But it is important. If you are planning a fireworks display please read through it and make sure everyone goes home safe and happy.

1 Look closely at the site where you are going to have your display. Where are the hazards? Are there any overhanging trees? Flammable things like fences, sheds or rubbish? Plan your layout so that you minimise the risk of any danger.

2. Where will the audience stand? Will they be safe while they are watching? Observe the safety distances on the fireworks themselves. Category 2 fireworks (typically the smaller ones) have an 8 metre safety distance, whilst the larger category 3 fireworks have a 25 metre safety distance. If your back garden isn’t large enough for a category 3 firework then don’t buy them. Category 2 fireworks are now equally as impressive and so there’s no need to put your guests at risk.

3. Plan your layout according to the size and hazard of each firework. Have the smaller ones near the front, and the larger ones to the back. In our professional displays we often lay the fireworks in the order that we are going to fire them. This means we aren’t going backwards and forwards across the site. This is a neat example of a professional layout from Zeus Fireworks

4. If you are firing rockets remember that they track into the wind. This means that on a windy night they will head into the wind and not move in the direction of the wind. This is because the wind blows the rocket’s stick which then points its head into the wind. One to consider for safety reasons but also so it doesn’t disappear behind your house meaning that your guests miss the burst.

5. Who will light the fireworks? It needs to be a responsible adult, who will not be drinking, and who will help everyone follow the Firework Code.

6.  Secure your fireworks so they don’t fall over. Multi-shot barrage cakes (often referred to as cakes because they are shaped like a large Christmas cake) fire anything between 10 and 100 shots, which means once it’s lit it won’t stop. These are great value, because you get a longer firework display and each shot is pretty much like one rocket.  However, if they aren’t secured they can bounce around or fall over, which could lead to them firing in the direction of your audience.  Many instructions tell you to bury them up to a pre-prescribed line.  This is fine, however most professional firework companies will hammer a small wooden stake into the ground and gaffer tape the cake to the stake.  The cake’s not going anywhere then!  Although make sure you don’t tape over the fuse!

7.  Don’t let the fuse get wet, in fact don’t let your firework get wet. If your firework or green visco fuse get wet (in the rain or because the ground is damp) then it’s unlikely to light or fire all the way through.  If the ground is damp, lay the fireworks on a plastic bag. If you are expecting rain put the whole firework in a swing bin liner before securing it into place.  Give the bag a shake before you light it to shake away the water then just tear the bag to expose the fuse and light it.  The firework will fire through the bag just fine and it’ll stay dry – although unfortunately if it’s raining you and your guests won’t!!! Click here for more details.

8.  If it doesn’t go off, then do not return to it– sounds obvious, however as a professional firework firing team we’ve seen many fireworks go off seconds, minutes and on occasions hours after they’ve been lit. Just leave it, don’t go anywhere near it, don’t bring it back into the house.  Retrieve it the next day, and return it another day to the store that you bought it from.  They will dispose of it securely.

9.  Think of your pets. Most pets, especially cats and dogs hate fireworks. Never take your dog to a firework display unless you know they are OK around them. It’s best to keep your pets indoors once it gets dark over the couple of weeks that fireworks are being let off. Keeping curtains closed and the TV or Radio on fairly loud often means they don’t hear the fireworks.  If that doesn’t work, and your pet is particularly traumatised then speak to your vet.  There are treatments and clothing that your pets can wear to help them cope, however always seek a professionals advice.

9. Clean up afterwards. Spent fireworks are messy and may not all have gone off. Please don’t leave them lying around. Dispose of them thoughtfully. If in doubt, talk to your Local Authority or your fireworks supplier.

10. But whatever you do, think Safety First. If it doesn’t feel safe, it probably isn’t. So don’t do it. Promise yourself that you will do whatever it takes to let you and your audience go home safe and happy. Even if you have to leave your display for another evening.

(With acknowledgement to Electrify PyrotechnicsZeus Fireworks, ROSPA and others who offer safety information on-line. Click on their name for more detailed advice)