Remember, remember, the real facts about fireworks…

Remember, remember, the fifth of November is an apt saying for Bonfire Night.

Firework Code Bonfire Night safer fireworks

“For those who are organising their own display, make sure your audience are well away from the bonfire and fireworks, plus keep to hand a torch, buckets of water, eye protection, gloves and a bucket of soft earth to put fireworks in” – Sheila Merrill.

For a start, it stirs up the fondest of memories – screeching rockets bursting neon colour into the dark sky with a faint aroma of smouldering cinders; families cooing around a glowing fire; and small gloved hands swirling sparklers.

Then there is the remembrance of Guy Fawkes and his failed gunpowder antics under the House of Lords.

But what I really want people, particularly teenagers, to remember is exactly what a firework is – an explosive, an unpredictable charged fuse, something that can scar for life or even kill if recklessly used as a toy or a missile.

Of course I want young people to enjoy Bonfire Night and all its sizzling revelry, as public health adviser for the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA), but I also want them to stay safe by being aware of the risks and knowing the facts.

Like, did you know that three sparklers burning together generate the same heat as a blowtorch? Or that a firework rocket reaches a speed of 150mph after being ignited? They are just some of the striking facts being highlighted by NHS Choices in the run up to Bonfire Night when A&E medics feel the full impact of firework injuries.

The NHS is also warning how sparklers get five times hotter than cooking oil, which is why RoSPA advises families using sparklers to wear gloves, not give them to very young children and not to hold one while carrying a baby.

Scarily, around 1,000 casualties are injured by fireworks, sparklers and the like in the four weeks around Bonfire Night every year, and half of these victims are under the age of 18. While in Northern Ireland, more than half of the 25 people injured by fireworks at this time last year were aged between 11 and 15. Despite overall casualty numbers being much lower than previous years, the rate of firework injuries among under-18s rose to four in every five victims.Firework Code Bonfire Night safer fireworks

It is against the law to sell fireworks to anyone younger than 18 in the UK, and the reason for that is because they are far from child’s play. They may dazzle and delight the young, but without proper planning and precautions, fireworks are something that commonly blind, maim or leave an unforgiving burning memento when they sadly fall into the wrong young hands. If you are asked by younger members of the family of friends to buy fireworks on their behalf, please think about this carefully as you could be putting their life at risk.

So my advice is simple, with roughly half of firework victims struck at a family or private party and many others injured in the street or park, enjoy the night at the safest place – an organised firework display.

For those who are organising their own display, make sure your audience are well away from the bonfire and fireworks, plus keep to hand a torch, buckets of water, eye protection, gloves and a bucket of soft earth to put fireworks in.

But if there is one thing you remember this Bonfire Night, remember, remember to follow the Firework Code, which can be found at RoSPA’s fireworks website – www.saferfireworks.com.

Sheila Merrill, RoSPA’s public health adviser

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