Wrap up warm this November and make the most of the fireworks with your Group
November is the season of rockets, bangers and sparklers as both Bonfire Night and the Hindu festival of Diwali are celebrated. There’s something incredibly magical about watching the skies light up and hearing the crackle of fireworks – but whether you’re organising a community fundraising display or a small party for your Scouts, it’s essential you’re fully prepared.
Around one thousand firework-related injuries occur in the UK each year and approximately half involve children. To ensure that your Group enjoys the festivities, check out our health and safety tips – and our brilliant activity ideas to make your evening go with a bang.
Don’t leave risk management until the day of your display. Planning ahead will pay off and minimise the chance of accidents. Talk to your Group about firework safety guidelines and the importance of following the Firework Code. The Health and Safety Executive’s guide ‘Giving Your Own Firework Display: How to Run and Fire It Safely’ is essential reading. Download for free from hse.gov.uk. Whatever the scale of your event, you should also seek advice on insurance – call Unity on 0845 0945 703 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out the factsheet on firework displays in the resources section of scoutinsurance.co.uk – from choosing your venue and selecting fireworks to crowd control, Unity’s checklist will help you conduct a full assessment ahead of your event.
Make sure your Group fully understands the risks and legalities of buying fireworks (you can’t buy or use ‘adult’ fireworks if you’re under 18). To increase their understanding, why not arrange a visit to a local fire station or ask your Group to design a firework safety poster?
When building a bonfire, make sure it is at least 18m (60ft) away from houses, trees, hedges, fences or sheds. Check for pets and wildlife – especially hedgehogs – before lighting. Use domestic firelighters when lighting a bonfire – never use petrol, paraffin or other flammable liquids and never burn dangerous rubbish such as aerosols.
As for fireworks, the Firework Code is crammed with common-sense tips and should be your oracle. Ensure they comply with British Safety Standards and store in a closed metal box – remove them one at a time before replacing lid. Do not allow spectators to bring their own fireworks, but do recruit at least one experienced person to manage the display. Ensure that any failed fireworks are not tried again.
Sparklers are one thing that Scouts get involved with. They get roasting hot (reaching a temperature 20 times the boiling point of water) so should always be handled with gloves. They should also be lit one at a time and always be held at arm’s length. As stated in the Firework Code, make sure your Scouts realise that they should never give sparklers to a child under five; and that spent sparklers should be disposed of in water or sand. There’s a wealth of advice online: see the firework safety section of nhs.uk and The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents’ website saferfireworks.com.
- The Chinese made the first fireworks in the 800s – bamboo shoots filled with gunpowder. They exploded them at new year to scare off evil spirits.
- King Henry VII’s wedding in 1486 featured the first recorded fireworks in England. Queen Elizabeth I created the post of fireworks master.
- With over 77,000 fireworks, the State of Kuwait’s 50th anniversary of the Constitution in November 2012 stands as the world’s largest display.
- A rocket can reach speeds of 150mph and a firework shell can reach as high as 200 metres.
- Try the high-energy ‘rockets and sparklers’ game from Programmes Online at scouts.org.uk. Get your Beavers to run around or jump up and down in the style of different fireworks. Get your Group to create art based on fireworks using glitter, paint and black paper.
- Tell your Group the story of Guy Fawkes and discuss the meaning of Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights.
- Bonfire toffee, Parkin cake and toffee apples are all sweet treats traditionally eaten on Bonfire Night and could be made and sold by your Scouts to raise funds.