Bonfire and firework safety
06 September 2019

Safety first with fireworks and bonfires

The lure of a blazing bonfire and dazzling fireworks displays against the night sky is irresistible to the crowds that gather in gardens and fields across the country on Bonfire Night. While we enjoy these events, we must also remember that safety comes first. When fun is fueled by flames and explosives, the risk of accidents skyrockets.

Injury reports reveal that far fewer people fall foul of fireworks at large public displays than at smaller private parties, so if you are hosting a group or community event, we strongly recommend taking all the necessary precautions. Here are some top tips we’ve gathered: 

Prudent preparation

As with any event, careful planning is crucial. Set up a safe and well-supported site to ensure a sparkling evening for all…

  • Inform the local fire brigade police and ambulance services about your event.
  • If possible, hire a professional firework display team and get written confirmation of their public liability insurance. Alternatively, use someone with previous public firework display experience.
  • Choose a site with numerous exits, which must be clearly lit and signposted. The car park should be well away from the display area.
  • Put one person in overall control of the event, including health and safety, and everyone else must be fully aware of their duties and reporting lines.
  • Have qualified first-aiders on site who can be reached by radio.
  • Recruit adult stewards for crowd control. There must be at least two plus one for every 250 spectators. They should be in hi-vis clothing.
  • The bonfire and firework launch sites must be far apart, and both must be completely clear of buildings, wooden fences and other hazards.
  • Use a rope or strong barrier to keep spectators at a safe distance from the display area.
  • Keep suitable firefighting equipment at both the bonfire and firework display area.

Show time

Fireworks are as dangerous as they are breath taking. The risk of burns (or worse) should not be taken lightly, so please take all precautionary measures:

  • Only buy fireworks with the European standard “CE” mark, which proves they have been rigorously tested.
  • Do not allow spectators to bring their own fireworks.
  • Keep all fireworks in a metal box and only use them one at a time.
  • Always read and follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Only use official launching tubes for rockets and direct them away from spectators. 
  • Keep all naked flames, including cigarettes, away from the fireworks.
  • Never put fireworks on the bonfire!
  • Light fireworks at arm’s length using a long taper, and then stand well back.
  • Do not return to a firework once it has been lit or if it fails to ignite.
  • By law, firework displays must finish by 11pm (12pm on Bonfire Night, 1am at New Year)

Around the bonfire

The sight of giant flames licking the sky is entrancing, but should be relished responsibly:

  • Place an experienced adult in charge of the bonfire, with suitable deputy or support.
  • Ensure all children are supervised.
  • The fire should be a manageable size and carefully constructed so it is stable.
  • Do not put rubbish on the fire and do not use solvents to light it.
  • Check under the bonfire for pets and wildlife (especially hedgehogs!) before lighting.
  • Afterwards, pour water on the fire and ensure embers are fully extinguished before leaving.

When the smoke clears

After the big finale (and thunderous applause), it’s important to get everyone home safely and clear up carefully.

  • Do not pick up used fireworks (spent or duds) until the display is finished. 
  • Keep spectators away from the bonfire, firework display and fallout zone until cleared.
  • Wear gloves and goggles when gathering firework debris.
  • Fully exploded fireworks can be put in the bin if they are cold.
  • Leave all misfired or failed fireworks for 30 minutes before lifting and immersing in water.
  • Do not remove failed rockets or mines from mortar tubes. Fill the tubes with water overnight and empty them the next day.

Further information

Further guidance is available from the government Health and Safety Executive and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents.

Scout groups,districts and counties should check the advice on the Scouts Fireworks Safety page and their video.

Insurance cover for Scout bonfire and firework displays

Fireworks displays are often cancelled due to bad weather. We can arrange an Event Cancellation & Abandonment policy to cover your investment, if your event has to be cancelled for reasons outside of your control.

If the event is a fundraising event, you may need money cover for the cash you raise.

Check our Insurance for Scout Bonfire and Firework Displays page for the insurance cover you may need.