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SETTING UP AND FIRING YOUR DISPLAY SAFELY

This section contains advise on how to safely set and fire your firework display. There is a separate section to cover each type of firework.

TRAINING
Sandling Fireworks provide a training day covering all aspects of firework safety. There is no legal requirement for you to attend but it is well worth considering if you are planning a public event or just plain enthusiastic!

FINDING THE RIGHT SITE
Most larger fireworks require a safety distance of 25m. Remember you will also need to ensure that people cannot approach the display site from the sides, you need 25m here as well. For larger displays, If you have 50m then use it! People do not need to be close to the fireworks. You will need an area in which to set up the fireworks, the size rather depends on the how big your display is Giving your own displaygoing to be. Behind the firing area you will need a fall out area where spent fireworks, particularly rocket sticks, can land. Ideally an empty field behind your site will provide a great fallout area. HSE advise that fireworks must be at 15m from a road , railway or footpath. A possible site plan is shown here. If you decide to have a bonfire make sure it is well away from the fireworks and downwind of spectator area. Some like to light the bonfire some time before the main display although it is probably safer to light it after the fireworks. An HSE booklet "Giving your own firework display" is available to download here.

ROSPA have an excellent web site Safer Fireworks with all sorts of useful information regarding firework safety.
Safer Fireworks



WHO DO I NEED TO NOTIFY?
For larger displays you should notify the police and fire service of the event. This is a simple courtesy so that they know when and where a display will be taking place. It is always a good idea to let local residents or neighbours know of the event so there are no surprises on the night. In particular farms, stables and other nearby places that might have animals should be told.

WHAT ABOUT THE WEATHER?
It is a good idea to check the weather forecast and take appropriate precautions. Most fireworks can be placed in  polythene bags and will fire OK through the bag without having to remove it. The exception here are rockets that must be uncovered before firing. Firework fuses are not usually waterproof and will need to be protected. A piece of white gaffer tape with an arrow pointing to where the fuse is can be placed on top of the polythene. The fuse can then be pulled clear of the bag before lighting.


PPE


PPE

That stands for Personal Protective Equipment. Those lighting the fireworks must wear flame retardant clothing such as a cotton boiler suit. Hard hats must be warn to give protection from from falling sparks. Safety goggles should be worn and are provided with the fireworks when possible. Wear fire retardant gloves to protect your hands. Ear defenders are often recommended but be sure you can still hear any shouted safety instructions.






THE FIREWORKS!

SPARKLERS If you have sparklers they must be used under adult supervision.  Sparklers should be held in a gloved hand. The wire remains very hot several seconds after use. It is a good idea to have buckets of water available where people can drop the spent sparklers in.

PORTFIRES
Portfires are hand held long burning firework flairs designed for lighting other fireworks with. The person holding (and lighting) the portfire must wear flame retardant gloves such as leather. Some people like to attach their portfires to a bamboo stick to give extra distance between them and the firework they are lighting. UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES should you keep portfires in your pocket! Have a closed box to keep them in. When your portfire is near to the end of its burning then replace it with a new one from the box. Keep a box of matches or flame proof lighter there in case your portfire goes out. Mark the position of the box with a glowlight or similar so everyone firing the display knows where they are. If you run out of portfires a chefs blowtorch can be a useful substitute. Crouching side on to the firework, light the fuse whilst holding the portfire at arms length. Turn and walk away from the fireworks once you are sure it is lit. If the firework does not ignite then do not return to it. Leave it until after the display.

FOUNTAINS
Fountains come in several types and sizes. Read the instructions. Some fountains have a base or are very stable such as cones or volcanoes. These can be placed upright on a firm surface. Other fountains may need to be pushed into soft soil or tied to a wooden stake to ensure they do not fall over. Fountains do not usually present any great hazard and can be used at the front of the fireworks area. Crouching side on to the firework, light the fuse whilst holding the portfire at arms length. Turn and walk away from the fireworks once you are sure it is lit. If the firework does not ignite then do not return to it. Leave it until after the display.

ROMAN CANDLES
Roman candles come in several sizes and types. Roman candles range from 10mm to 30mm id. Roman candle batteries and bombardments consist of a number of roman candles fused together in a bundle to create a more intense effect. Roman candle bouquets consists of a number of roman candles attached to a wooden frame in a fan pattern. These produce a large spread of stars rather than straight up. Roman candles fire a succession of coloured stars, effects or bombettes high into the air. Bombettes are small starshells that produce a starburst.

Read the instructions. Small roman candles can usually be pushed firmly into soft ground at a slight angle away from the audience. Larger roman candles, candle batteries, candle bombardments and candle bouquets will need to be attached to a wooden stake to ensure they cannot fall over. The wooden stake should go on the AUDIENCE side of the firework so that if the firework becomes detached from the stake it fall away from the audience and fire into the fallout zone. Tie or tape the firework to the stake. Do not tape over the fuse as it will burn through when you light the firework! Make sure the tape is waterproof so it does not fall off in the rain. Cable ties are ideal for this purpose but make sure you do not pull the cable tie to tight or else it will bite into the casing of the firework and cause it to malfunction.

Crouching side on to the firework, light the tip of the fuse whilst holding the portfire at arms length. Turn and walk away from the fireworks once you are sure it is lit. If the firework does not ignite then do not return to it. Leave it until after the display.

CAKES, BARRAGES AND SINGLE IGNITION
Cakes and barrages come in many different sizes and shapes. They consist of a number of shot tubes fused together. They can eject stars and effects either straight up or in fan patterns. Some fire like a windscreen wiper, left to right, right to left etc. Single Ignition (or single fuse) fireworks are similar to cakes but endeavor to provide and complete display in one box by producing a  large variety of effects which may include roman candle type effects, fountains, mines etc.

Read the instructions. Most will need to be secured in some way to make sure that the firework does not flip over when firing. This can be done by part burying the cake in soft soil, tying securely to an upright stake(s) at ground level or by placing bricks or blocks around the firework. Which ever method is used the important thing is that the firework must not be able to fall over even if it misfires. If using a stake it should go on the AUDIENCE side of the firework so that if the firework becomes detached from the stake it will like fall away from the audience and fire into the fallout zone. Tie or tape the firework to the stake. Do not tape over the fuse as it will burn through when you light the firework! Make sure the tape is waterproof so it does not fall off in the rain.

Crouching side on to the firework, light the tip of  the fuse whilst holding the portfire at arms length. Turn and walk away from the fireworks once you are sure it is lit. If the firework does not ignite then do not return to it. Leave it until after the display.

ROCKETS
If you read the press then any firework that goes up into the air is a rocket, and anything that goes bang is a banger. A constant source of irritation to true Firework Fondlers. Rockets are aerial fireworks that have a stick to keep it stable during flight. Garden rockets are now limited to 20g of composition. Larger rockets now have to be packed in special wire cage packing. Wear gloves and use a pair of snips to cut through the steel banding that holds the wire cage together. We would be the first to agree it is a nuisance, but the alternative is no rockets at all. We don't make the rules. Wish we did though! You need to extract your rockets from the special packing during the day. Do not leave it until the last minute.

Read the instructions. Rockets come with one or more launch tubes. You can make more from plastic piping available from a hardware shop. The tubes should be pushed securely into the ground at a slight angle away from the audience. Insert the rocket into the tube. Make sure it is free to rise and that the stick is not stuck in the ground! If setting up rockets before the display put the tubes about one foot apart. Loosen, but do not remove, the plastic caps that protect the fuse. Rockets fly into the wind because the wind pushes the stick back making the rocket angle forward. In windy conditions it may be a good idea to test a rocket and observe where it exploded and where the sticks land.

Standing side on to the firework, light the tip of  the fuse whilst holding the portfire at arms length. Turn and walk away from the fireworks once you are sure it is lit. Do not turn around until you hear that the rocket has launched properly.  If the firework does not ignite then do not return to it. Leave it until after the display.

MINES
Mines produce a sudden eruption of stars and effects from ground level into the sky. Mines come pre-loaded in a mortar tube. They are not aerial shells which are not available to the general public.

Read the instructions. Mines usually have to be buried part way in soft soil. It may be possible to secure a mine to one or more stakes  if you  can ensure it cannot fall over. The wooden stake should go on the AUDIENCE side of the firework so that if the firework becomes detached from the stake it fall away from the audience and fire into the fallout zone. Tie or tape the firework to the stake. Do not tape over the fuse as it will burn through when you light the firework! Make sure the tape is waterproof so it does not fall off in the rain.

Crouching side on to the firework, light the tip of the fuse whilst holding the portfire at arms length. It is VERY important that you light the just the tip of the fuse or else the mine may fire instantly. Turn and walk away from the fireworks once you are sure it is lit. If the firework does not ignite then do not return to it. Leave it until after the display.

WHEELS AND SETS
Wheels come in traditional circular form or more likely in a slat form with a fountain driver at each end. Setpieces are static arrays of fountains that do not revolve. There are also combinations of the two types such as our Jetting Diamonds.

Read the instructions. Make sure you understand whether or not it is supposed to turn. Very large pieces might require the construction of a timber frame but usually you need just one post 2 - 3m high. There are many wrong ways of erecting a wheel or setpiece but there is a really simple right way. You will need you timber post, 2 x 2 is most suitable, and a piece of angle iron as used for fencing. With a mallet or post rammer hammer the angle iron into the ground. With your post on the ground carefully nail your wheel or set piece to one end of it. If it is a wheel, angle it about 5° away from the main body of the post so that the wheel will not knock against it when turning. The wheel must be free to turn. That means you can easily flick it round with one finger without any resistance. Make sure you unfurl the fuse if it bundled up. Then get some one to help you push the post upright. Position the post inside the angle iron stake. Tie the post to the stake. The easiest way is to use several cable ties. Tape the fuse to the post so it does not blow about in the wind. That's it, job done.

Standing side on to the firework, light the tip of fuse whilst holding the portfire at arms length. Turn and walk away from the fireworks once you are sure it is lit. If the firework does not ignite then do not return to it. Leave it until after the display.