Don't be a fool, follow the firework code
12th October 2009
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Please play safely, Tunbridge Wells.

The safety information films shown at my school in the run up to Bonfire Night when I was a child stuck in my imagination. Similar to the rail safety films - do they still run these? - were graphic, sometimes shocking, and made the required impact.

Obviously my budget doesn't stretch to making realistic special effects, and for some reason friends and family declined my offer to stand in as stunt doubles while we recreated the public information films of my youth. Rule 1 of safety on bonfire night - well done everyone who declined. Tut tut to the idiot friend who volunteered to hold the Catherine Wheel.

All joking aside, it's serious business making sure you and your stay safe on Guy Fawkes Night in Tunbridge Wells.

There are several websites with clear and simple safety tips you shouldn't ignore; a small selection follows:

"Firework Top Ten Safety Code for Adults

Young people should watch and enjoy fireworks at a safe distance and follow the safety rules for using sparklers. Only adults should deal with firework displays and the lighting of fireworks. They should also take care of the safe disposal of fireworks once they have been used.
    1.    Plan your firework display to make it safe and enjoyable.
    2.    Keep fireworks in a closed box and use them one at a time.
    3.    Read and follow the instructions on each firework using a torch if necessary.
    4.    Light the firework at arm's length with a taper and stand well back.
    5.    Keep naked flames, including cigarettes, away from fireworks.
    6.    Never return to a firework once it has been lit.
    7.    Don't put fireworks in pockets and never throw them.
    8.    Direct any rocket fireworks well away from spectators.
    9.    Never use paraffin or petrol on a bonfire.
    10.    Make sure that the fire is out and surroundings are made safe before leaving.

These are often viewed as being harmless but they do burn at fierce temperatures. Sparklers should not be given to anyone under the age of five. To a young child, the heat from a sparkler is equivalent to the heat from a welding torch.
Safety rules for sparklers
    •    Never give them to young children under five;
    •    Always wear gloves with sparklers, preferably leather ones;
    •    Hold it at arms length while an adult lights it for you;
    •    Never wave it about near someone else as you could burn them;
    •    Never hold a baby in your arms when you are holding a sparkler
    •    When the sparkler has finished, put it into a bucket of cold water straight away and leave it there.
RoSPA Guide to firework safety, Safety Education, Autumn/Winter 1995"

"Where to buy
Don't cut corners just to save a few quid. Always buy fireworks from a reputable shop to make sure that they conform to British Standards. This means that they should have BS 7114 written on the box.
Sometimes shops open up for a short time before Bonfire Night but these may not be the best places to buy fireworks from. Staff in these shops might not be very knowledgeable about using fireworks safely and their fireworks might not meet British Standards.
Whatever you do, don't buy fireworks from anywhere you're not sure about, such as the back of a van or from a temporary, unlicensed market stall.
What to buy
There are different categories of fireworks. Members of the public can buy and set off most of the fireworks that come under Categories 1 to 3. These are fireworks that include those that you can use indoors, in your garden or at a display. Always read the packet carefully and make sure that the fireworks you buy are suitable for the place where you are going to set them off.
Professional fireworks
Some fireworks can only be bought and used by firework professionals. These include: air bombs; aerial shells, aerial maroons, shells-in-mortar and maroons-in-mortar; all bangers; mini rockets; fireworks with erratic flight; some Category 2 and 3 fireworks which exceed certain size limits; and all Category 4 fireworks.
Setting them off
Only one person should be in charge of fireworks. If that's you, then make sure you take all the necessary precautions. Read the instructions in daylight and don't drink any alcohol until they've all been discharged. Make your preparations in advance, and in daylight. On the night, you will need...
    •    a torch.
    •    a bucket or two of water.
    •    eye protection and gloves.
    •    a bucket of soft earth to put fireworks in.
    •    suitable supports and launchers if you're setting off catherine wheels or rockets."

Obviously pets don't understand the symbolic nature of Bonfire Night and that it's all just for show. For them, it's Animal World War III and their sensitive hearing makes it doubly worse. The advice is simple:
Keep them indoors, probably for several nights around November 5th, and another idea is to keep the curtains shut. There shouldn't be an escape route from open doors or windows, and they should have a safe and secure place to cower (under the bed is favourite in our house!)
Our kitten didn't even like the noises from one of the websites I looked at - imagine how much worse it will seem to her on the night..

The information in this blog post is an amalgamation of advice from the above sites, and should be followed responsibly.

We're looking for displays local to Tunbridge Wells and West Kent to list over the next few weeks, so please feel free to email us at TheBestOf Tunbridge Wells at if you're organising a public event, to ensure it's listed on our Tunbridge Wells Events page.


Regards, Natelie

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