Fireworks make a good occasion great, however they are a dangerous thing to use if you don't know what you are doing. If a member of the public found a gun lying in the street, they would think twice about messing about with it; however, fireworks are legal to buy for anyone in the UK over 18, and there is no law requiring you to be properly trained before your back-yard display. As a seasoned pyrotechnician, I'm writing this guide to give you a few handy hints before you go to buy your fireworks for your wedding, christening, bar mitzvah etc etc. These rules apply all year round, not just on Guy Fawke's night.
The first (and most important thing) is think carefully where you are going to buy your fireworks. If you cannot afford to have a professional come and fire your display, ALWAYS go to a professional pyrotechnics shop to buy your fireworks (almost every town has one). These guys and gals are the ones in the know - most have been professionally involved in fireworks (both selling and firing displays) for years. They will be able to advise you on the safety limits of each firework, the effect, the noise level, how to put your display together for maximum wow-factor and what safety equipment you require. Can you say the same about the spotty teenager manning the counter at your local supermarket?
If you opt for a selection pack, never rely on the piddly little portfire supplied in the pack. Unless you plan on letting all your fireworks go within two or three minutes, they are as much use as a chocolate teapot. Ask your supplier for professional portfires. These are much easier to use, and enable you to stand further away from the fireworks when lighting them. NEVER EVER light fireworks with matches or a lighter. Should you do so, you will be far too close as the firework ignites, and run the risk of losing your eyebrows at the very least!
Always consider buying (or raiding the garage) for a certain amount of safety gear (also known as PPE or Personal Protection Equipment). For those of you who have seen the firing team come off the field after the Bolton-le-Sands Bonfire & Fireworks Display, we don't wear all that gear to look flashy, or to bolster our egos. We wear it because we are dealing with a mixture of public & professional grade fireworks, and we enjoy having all our limbs attached to our bodies. As a minimum for a back garden display, I would recommend sturdy boots (preferably steel toe-capped) and a pair of gauntlets or welding gloves. It is also a good idea to have a bucket of sand and a powder fire extinguisher on standby (a lot of firework casings are made from cardboard, and they can occasionally catch fire).
If you are using fireworks that require being staked (ie. roman candles) always attach the firework to the rear of the stake (the opposite side to the audience). This way, should the bindings fail, the firework will fall away from your spectators. Hopefully this will prevent anyone having any extra perforations at the end of your display, and save a flat-out mad-panic dash to the nearest Accident and Emergancy unit.
Finally always remember the golden rules of fireworks:-
- NEVER go back to a firework that's been lit
- ALWAYS store fireworks in a lockable metal container away from heat sources
- ALWAYS keep fireworks away from children and vunerable people
- ALWAYS consider your neighbours when planning a display
- ALWAYS keep safe
- ALWAYS dispose of your spent fireworks responsibly.
Thanks for reading this guide. If it makes one person have a safer display, and/or prevents just one accident, it will have been worthwhile writing it. :)