safe beacons event
15 February 2022

Hosting a safe beacons event

As a nation steeped in history and tradition, the United Kingdom is often marking important anniversaries or celebrating Royal occasions with memorial parades, street parties and firework displays. But for some especially significant events, such as the Queen’s Jubilees, the country comes together to light beacons across the land, creating a trail of light through the night.

The beacons are a tremendous sight as flames burst into life atop mountains, church towers and castle battlements, on village greens and farms, along beaches and on cliff tops. And the best thing is that anyone can get involved, just as long as they do so safely. 

So, if you’re holding a beacon lighting event for any occasion, we hope this guide will light the way to a safe and successful evening…

Planning and precaution

The first step for any event is to carry out a thorough risk assessment. This should be a written document including preventative measures and action points for reducing the risks, and how you will respond to them. One person should be appointed to be in overall control of the event and ultimately responsible for health and safety, while other individuals should be made fully aware of their duties and who they report to. Before any further planning, you must inform your local Fire Brigade, Police and First Aid association about the event.

Preparing the site

  • Ensure your site has plenty of well-lit and clearly-signposted entrances and exits.
  • If hosting a firework display:
  • Ensure there is enough space for both the beacon/bonfire and spectators to be at a safe distance from the launching area.
  • Ensure the car park can be sited well away from the display area and dropping zone.

On the night

  • Arrange for stewards to assist with crowd control. You must have one steward for every 250 spectators, and always at least two, and they must be easy to spot in the crowd, for example by wearing high-vis.
  • Have qualified first aiders patrolling the site, making regular contact with the person in charge. Two-way radios make this much easier and can save crucial time in an emergency.
  • Ensure that persons responsible for lighting beacons, bonfires and fireworks are wearing appropriate safety clothing, headgear, gloves and goggles.
  • You must have suitable firefighting equipment close at hand.

Building your beacon

As with any bonfire, your beacon must be built to a manageable size and at a safe distance from spectators, food and entertainment stalls, and the firework launching area. Mark out this no-go zone with strong rope or solid barriers. The fire should also be well clear of buildings, trees and other overhead hazards and it should be checked for pets and wildlife, especially hedgehogs, before lighting.

Never use paraffin, petrol or solvents to start a fire, and never burn dangerous rubbish such as aerosols. Such extremely flammable fuels can explode in seconds, putting people nearby at risk of severe burns.

At the end of the night, pour water on the embers, and do not leave the site until the fire is completely out.


If you’re hoping to have a dazzling firework display to celebrate the lighting of the beacons, you’ll need to take some extra precautions. 

We recommend using a professional, independent firework display team where possible, from whom you can get written proof of their public liability insurance. Ensure that they also comply with all regulations, such as those laid out by the British Fireworks Association. If your display is going to include Category 4 fireworks, then those running the display must be fully trained to do so, and again you should get written proof of their qualifications.

For smaller displays with Category 1 to 3 fireworks, it may not be possible to bring in the pros, so try to recruit at least one person with previous firework experience. There is plenty of information on running your own display safely from the Health and Safety Executive and the Fire Service. Here are some of the top tips:

  • Do not let spectators bring their own fireworks on site.
  • All fireworks should be compliant with British Safety Standards.
  • Keep firefighting equipment close at hand.
  • Fireworks should only be used in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Fireworks should be kept in a metal container and removed one at a time before replacing the lid. 
  • Never put fireworks on the bonfire.
  • Never return to fireworks which fail to ignite.
  • After the display, spent or failed fireworks should be soaked in a container of water.
  • Consult the manufacturer’s instructions on proper disposal.

This may all sound very daunting and dangerous, but by taking all possible precautions will help ensure your beacon event sparks joy without incident. If you’d like to learn more, the Health and Safety Executive has two very thorough guides on running your own display (for general use), and working together on firework displays (for professionals only).

Consider your insurance options

Unfortunately, accidents can and do happen, particularly at exciting night-time events involving fire. If you’d like to speak about insurance for your beacon ceremony, Unity Insurance Services has experience as the official provider for previous events and our team of experts would be happy to talk through your options. Call us on 0345 040 7702.