Remember, remember the 5th of November; Guy Fawkes, Gunpowder treason and plot… We all know the rhyme from our own childhoods. But how many of us know the basics of firework and fire safety at home?
A home display can be a lot of fun, particularly for families with young grandchildren – who can be safely taken indoors if the entertainment alarms them! Using fireworks at home, though, comes with a duty of care on the part of the adults, who must know the health and safety requirements they are expected to fulfil.
Every year a number of children end up in hospital after an accident with fireworks. It’s vital that you understand the basics of firework safety yourself – and that you are able to pass these on to your grandchildren too. Whether you have your own display, or attend a public display, knowing what to do and what not to do around fireworks can prevent what are sometimes very serious accidents.
A firework is an explosive device. It should never be exposed to naked flames, or to any source of heat, without the intent to set it off. This means all fireworks should be stored in a sealed metal container until they are ready to be prepared and launched.
Fireworks create heat, sparks and even flames. Safe enjoyment of fireworks requires that you have the means to extinguish fire close at hand. A bucket of water, and a garden hose already connected to the tap, make an ideal combination: you can use the water to douse any immediate flames, while another pair of adults turns on and aims the hose.
Once a flame has been applied to the fuse of a firework, all attendees – small and large – should retreat to a safe distance. Under no circumstances should a lit firework be approached, even if the fuse burns down and the firework fails to go off. Sometimes there is a slight delay between the fuse finishing and the firework igniting. If you are checking that everything is OK during this delay, it could be you that ends up in hospital.
No-one with responsibility for fireworks should drink alcohol at all, until the display has finished.
Pets don’t like fireworks at all. It is important that pets are kept indoors, where they will be safe.
Sparklers are a big favourite with children of all ages: and we all love seeing that first expression of delighted surprise on their faces when they hiss into life. Sparklers are not suitable for children under the age of five, however. It doesn’t matter how intelligent your four year old is – he or she is not yet capable of understanding how to use a sparkler safely.
Make sure children over the age of five are supervised when using sparklers. They should always hold the sparkler at full arm’s length away from their bodies, and they should never point the sparkler at another person or try to touch things with the lit end. Gloves, hat and coat should be worn as these will protect the child from sparks.
Don’t let children run with sparklers. Extinguish the heated end as soon as the sparkles have gone out.
On Guy Fawkes Night just as on other occasions, knowledge and preparation prevent accidents. If you do have a display at your home, be sure you have planned it properly and know which adult will be responsible for what safety element.
More helpful information can be found at:
St John Ambulance – which gives practical advice on how to treat burns;
The Child Accident Prevention Trust – which gives specific information about children and firework safety;