Fireworks buying guide

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Fireworks have become increasingly popular over recent years and are no longer a spectacle reserved for Bonfire Night. Weddings, parties and other celebrations are often marked with a dazzling pyrotechnic firework finale. Putting on your own firework display requires careful forward planning and, above all, safety know-how. Read our guide on how to have an enjoyable, accident-free fireworks night.

Choose which type of fireworks you want

  • Sparklers: A firm favourite, sparklers are the only fireworks that should be handled by anyone other than the display organisers. Always supervise children with sparklers and never give them to a child under five. Light sparklers one at a time and make sure all participants are wearing gloves and don't touch the sparks. Finally, sparklers can reach temperatures of up to 2000°C so put used sparklers hot end down into a bucket of sand, earth or water so they don't burn people.
  • Fountain: A ground-based firework, which emits showers of crackling, glittering sparks and light effects that can reach up to 6 metres (20ft).
  • Mine: A spectacular explosion of colours and effects, starting with a ground level fountain, which builds up to a sudden, unexpected burst of aerial plumes and stars.
  • Roman candle: Roman candle fireworks shoot out a brilliant array of stars, coloured balls, bangs and flashes.
  • Rocket: An aerial firework, which is propelled into the sky by a rocket motor, leaving a trail of stars and finishing with a delightful burst. The rocket is one of the most iconic, well-known types of firework.
  • Shot tube: Single shot Roman candles that create big starbursts and crackles with a glittering tail – an exciting alternative to rockets.
  • Cake: cake fireworks are essentially a group of multi-shot Roman Candles fused together, making them fire in rapid succession to create a vibrant aerial firework display by lighting a single fuse.
  • Single Ignition: A very large cake, single ignition fireworks produce massive aerial bursts, a choreographed barrage of light and sound, often lasting for several minutes. Light this once, step back and enjoy your own impressive firework display.

Plan ahead of fireworks night

  • Buy your fireworks in time to pre-plan the event properly.
  • Remember it's illegal for anyone under the age of eighteen years to buy fireworks, or even possess them in a public place.
  • Only buy fireworks from a retailer you can trust, such as Tesco fireworks online.
  • Let neighbours know you are planning to set off fireworks and take on board their concerns.
  • Check the fireworks you buy are suitable for the size of the garden and that they comply with British Standard 7114 or its European equivalent. Instructions should be in English.
  • Read the instructions in advance by daylight. Write them down separately if it will help on the night.
  • Assess the area you're planning to use for your display: there should be plenty of open space and fairly soft ground.
  • There should be at least 25 metres between the nearest firework and the spectators.
  • There should be no overhead cables, overhanging trees or other obstruction near the firework area.
  • Ensure you have enough timber available for static fireworks because some need to be nailed to stakes. Set these fireworks up in advance and cover with plastic to guard against dampness.
  • Only use launcher tubes for rockets – never use milk bottles or buckets, and don't stake them directly into the ground. Position launcher tubes in advance at a safe distance.
  • Only use mortar tubes for the number of launches recommended on the instructions.
  • Draw up a firing list so you and others who are helping you know the order in which the fireworks are to be let off.

On the night of your fireworks party

Point out to all spectators where the boundaries are for watching the fireworks. If possible, have this area cordoned off with fireproof tape. In addition:

  • Make sure there are buckets of water, sand or earth handy for extinguishing sparklers.
  • Don't allow smoking around fireworks.
  • Never return to a lit firework that doesn't go off. It could be ignited, but go off after a time delay.
  • If you are the person lighting the fireworks, wear eye protection and gloves.
  • Make sure you have a bucket of sand, or earth to embed 'cake' and 'single ignition' fireworks to the 'bury to line' marks on the packaging.
  • Have a first aid box and designated first-aider handy just in case of any mishaps

Firework Code (with thanks to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents)

Children and young people should stand at a distance from fireworks and only handle sparklers, when they should wear gloves and extinguish used sparklers in a bucket of sand or water. Only adults should deal with firework displays and the lighting of fireworks. Adults should also take care of the safe disposal of fireworks once they have been used.

  • Plan your firework display to make it safe and enjoyable.
  • Keep fireworks in a closed box and use them one at a time.
  • Read and follow the instructions on each firework, using a torch (never a flame) if necessary.
  • Light the firework at arm's length with a long taper and stand well back.
  • Keep naked flames, including cigarettes, away from fireworks.
  • Never return to a firework once it has been lit.
  • Don't put fireworks in pockets and never throw them.
  • Direct any rocket fireworks well away from spectators.
  • Never use paraffin or petrol on a bonfire.
  • Make sure that the fire is out and surroundings are made safe before leaving.

Fireworks and animal safety

The RSPCA and the Blue Cross animal charity recommend following these guidelines to keep any animal or pet safe during a fireworks display.

Pets

  • If your pets react very badly to fireworks, even when made secure indoors, talk to your vet well in advance about the possibility of giving them a mild sedative on the day.
  • Keep dogs and cats inside when fireworks are being let off. Make sure your dog is walked earlier in the day before the fireworks start.
  • Bring hutched pets indoors or shut them securely in a garage or other outside building. (It's better to bring them indoors if you can, as the noise levels will be lower.) Put extra bedding in the hutch so your pet can burrow in more deeply to feel more secure.
  • Close all windows and doors, and lock cat flaps to stop pets escaping and to keep noise to a minimum. (Set up a litter tray for your dog or cat.)
  • Draw the curtains and, if the animals are used to the sounds of TV or radio, switch them on at normal volume to block out some of the noise of the fireworks.
  • Stay with your pet and reassure them if they will let you, but don't worry if they take cover under a bed or somewhere else they feel safe.

Horses and ponies

  • If you know there are horses, ponies or cattle nearby, do let the owners know in advance about your planned firework display.
  • If you know your larger outdoor animals react badly to loud noises, perhaps you could consider moving them or stabling them for the night.
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