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Bonfire Night safety with fireworks and sparklers

Child plays with sparklers

If you're hosting a Bonfire Night party or family fireworks, be sure to swot up on the safety drill so that it goes off with a (perfectly safe) bang


Is it really Bonfire Night if you don't walk round the garden, writing your name in the air with a sparkler? (We're talking about the kids, obviously…)

Sparklers are a staple part of bonfire celebrations but to make sure everyone enjoys them safely, it's important to heed the Child Accident Prevention Trust's following advice:

  • Sparklers can reach a temperature of up to 2,000°, so only light one at a time and be sure to wear gloves
  • Don't give sparklers to children under the age of five – they don't properly understand why they can be dangerous
  • Don't hold babies and young children while you're holding a sparkler in case they reach out unexpectedly
  • Supervise children aged five and over when they're holding sparklers
  • Make sure children are wearing gloves (but be aware that they won't fully protect their hands from burns)
  • Don't let children run around with sparklers or pick spent sparklers up once they've finished
  • Have buckets of water to put spent sparklers in

As one Mumsnetter put it: “The rule with waving sparklers around (courtesy of one of my friends, and for little boys at least) is: no higher than your willy, and always at arm's length.”

Firework drill

First things first, the Firework Code:

  • Stand well back
  • Keep pets indoors
  • Keep fireworks in a closed box
  • Only buy fireworks marked BS 7114
  • Light at arm's length, using a taper
  • Follow the instructions on each firework
  • Don't drink alcohol if setting off fireworks
  • Always supervise children around fireworks
  • Never put fireworks in your pocket or throw them
  • Never go near a firework that has been lit – even if it hasn't gone off it could still explode

Before you buy, check what it says on the box about the fireworks' 'clearance distance' – there's no point in shelling out for rockets that need 30m if your garden is only 10m.

And if you buy fireworks designed for a much larger space, you also risk damaging children's hearing – fireworks can be well over 140 decibels, which is loud enough to cause tinnitus and hearing damage, say hearing charities.

The audiology team at Action on Hearing Loss (formerly RNID), recommends the following to make sure that the whole family can enjoy the 'ooos' and the 'aaahs' of Bonfire Night without the 'ouch':

  • How loud is too loud? Sounds above 85 decibels can cause hearing loss, with some fireworks hitting 70dB above this danger level – worse than standing near a pneumatic drill (90dB) or a jet taking off (1290dB).
  • You can protect little ears from firework bangs with ear defenders. They are readily available from many online outlets, come in a range of fun colours and can be re-used throughout the year, such as at New Year's Eve displays, festivals or days out at the football.
  • If you're setting off fireworks at home, it's particularly important to wear ear plugs or ear defenders as it's more likely you will be closer to the loud sounds.
  • There are no hard-and-fast rules on this, but if you're attending larger firework displays try to stand at what you'd consider a 'safe' distance from where the fireworks are being set off. Some fireworks displays have designated Spectator Areas.
  • Take it seriously: if you notice any hearing loss or your child complains of ringing in their ears after your Bonfire Night activities, visit your GP and ask for a hearing test.

Mumsnetters' fireworks safety tips

  • “Set the fireworks in firm soil or sand and do not aim them towards other people's gardens or houses.”
  • “Tape off the bonfire so people can't get too close. We do fireworks behind this tape, too.”
  • “Get different adults to 'be in charge' of different aspects – one overseeing the bonfire, two setting off the fireworks, two in charge of sparklers, someone else in charge of food etc. It's much safer because you don't keep getting distracted away from one task to do another.”
  • “Do not allow any child to creep up the garden to get nearer the fireworks or 'help'. Set them a distance boundary and stick to it (even if it means yelling at other people's kids).”
  • “Consider ear defenders. My son is five and only recently realised that fireworks are pretty – up until then, it turns out, he had been too terrified by the noise to watch.”
  • “Always make sure the firework is the right way up… we had a very impressive explosion that threw half the garden into everyone's face.”
  • And finally… “Invoke the 'no getting pissed till after the final psst' rule. In other words, you can only get tiddled when all the fireworks have been set off.”

people gathered round a bonfire

The same rules apply to bonfires as fireworks: keep children at a safe distance. Site your bonfire away from fences, trees and sheds, and, if possible, somewhere sheltered from gusts of wind.

Once it's lit, don't leave the bonfire unattended and have a bucket of water or hose nearby in case of emergencies.

Throwing fireworks or sparklers into the fire is a seriously stupid dangerous idea. And once the bonfire has died down, spray the embers with water to prevent them reigniting.

Protecting pets on Bonfire Night

Pyrotechnics and pets don't go.Iif your family pet is frightened of fireworks, see your vet for advice before November 5.

One Mumsnetter says: “The golden rule is to act normally and to avoid punishing or comforting a frightened pet. Just make them a comfortable, soundproofed den (cupboard under the stairs/old duvet thrown over a space between furniture/bathroom – wherever they'll go willingly), close the curtains and put the telly on.”

Visit our Pets discussion board if you need or can impart more words of wisdom about keeping your family's furry friends safe and calm on November 5th.

First aid

We've got advice on treating burns on our first aid for children pages – you need to treat a firework burn as you would a burn from a fire. Obviously, if someone does get burnt and you're unsure of the severity of their injury, administer first aid but get medical expert help.