Direct Line magazine

How to put on a safe fireworks display in your garden

Updated on: 27 October 2021

A child holds a sparkler during a firework display

When putting on a fireworks display in your garden it’s important that you take the necessary safety measures.

The excitement of a bombastic lightshow will be lost should an accident happen. And accidents do happen. From 2018-2020 nearly 2,000 visits to A&E in England were the result of a firework injury.

Check out our top tips to stay safe this bonfire night.

Pick ’n’ mix

There’s a huge variety of bangers and rockets to choose from, but make sure you buy what’s sensible for your garden.

Category 2 and 3 fireworks are allowed to be used in a home environment, with category 4 to be used by professionals only.

Category 2, otherwise known as garden fireworks, have a minimum spectator distance of 8 metres. Category 3, also known as display fireworks, require a much bigger minimum spectator distance of 15 metres.

These are minimum requirements for your safety, so extend the spectator distance where possible.

Remember, each firework has its own set of hazards and they all have different instructions to account for this. Make sure you read the guidelines carefully. If a firework doesn’t go off, don’t be tempted to go and check what went wrong; it could still explode and you'd then be at risk of serious injury.

Always check before buying that fireworks show the British Standard Kitemark BS7114. Also, only ever buy them in full packs rather than individually or in packs where some have been taken out.

Store safely

It might sound obvious, but make sure your fireworks are kept away from children and animals, and stored in a cool, dry place in a closed box. Don’t keep them in the hallway, porch or under the stairs.

And please don’t put any fireworks in your pocket.

Pay attention to weather warnings

Rain on fireworks night isn’t ideal, but it’s not the end of the world.

You can waterproof fireworks with bin bags or cling film. As long as you keep the fuse dry, you’ll be fine. Just pack an umbrella for your spectators.
In fact, it’s a good idea to waterproof your fireworks even if rain isn’t forecast, because when it gets dark, dew can settle and dampen the fuse.

While rain isn’t a deal breaker, wind can be. You’ve got to seriously consider the strength of the wind and its direction.

If the wind’s blowing in the direction of the spectators, then you’ve got a serious problem. Don’t risk firework debris getting swept towards your friends and family.

You can tackle wind by moving your fireworks display further away, or by relocating the spectators to a safer spot. Be sure to also consider your safety.

Look at the forecast, assess the situation, and take all the necessary safety measures.

Protect your pets

Animals are a lot more sensitive to big flashes and loud bangs than we are. Have a plan of action to keep your pets as comfortable and calm as possible. You could also consider buying new 'silent fireworks', which may be less stressful for your animals. 

Check out our handy tips to keep your pets happy this bonfire night.

Quality not quantity

This is a tough one. On one hand, you want enough fireworks so people don’t get bored, but you also want big bangs instead of limp fizzes.

Quality generally trumps quantity, so it’s better to have 10 great fireworks that make people go ’oooh’ and ’ahhhh’, instead of 20 that leave everybody underwhelmed.

Keep it snappy

It’s good to drag your fireworks display out for as long as possible, right? Wrong.

Chances are, you’ve got bored kids in your midst. Chances are, it’s going to be pretty chilly. And chances are, your neighbours will start getting a bit miffed if your fireworks display goes on all night.

Why take half an hour to stretch out a display, when you can make more of an impact in 10 minutes?

What you mustn’t do is rush. Make sure it’s only you (or another sensible adult) that lets off the fireworks. Only light one at a time at arms-length, and with a firework lighter or fuse wick.

Keep kids close

Kids can be curious creatures. Make it clear where it’s safe for them to stand and be sure you keep a watchful eye over them throughout the entire display.

Never let kids light fireworks, and supervise them if you bring out sparklers. It’s a good idea to keep a bucket of water close by, where you can dispose used sparklers.

Be clothes conscious

It’s not just children’s dressing up clothes that can be a fire hazard. Scarves, tracksuits and long coats can also put people in unnecessary danger around candles and bonfires.

Although it’s unlikely that someone will catch alight, it’s always good to remember:

STOP don’t run

DROP to the ground, and

ROLL to put out the flame

Safe disposal of fireworks

Fully spent fireworks can be disposed along with your regular refuse, but the guidance is a little murky when it comes to dealing with misfired and partly spent fireworks.

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents states that you should soak misfired or partly spent fireworks in a container of water and contact the manufacturer for advice on disposal.

Instructions supplied with the firework may also contain disposal advice.

Most importantly, never immediately return to a faulty firework. Give the firework as much time as possible, ideally overnight, to ensure it won’t spring back into life.

Check your cover limits

No matter how safe you make your back garden, accidents can happen.

Check your home insurance policy documents carefully before lighting any fireworks, and see what level of protection you have if your property or its contents are damaged by fire, explosion or smoke.

Remember, most insurance policies will typically have a “duty of care” clause, so in the event of a claim you may need to prove you took reasonable precautions. For example, that you set off the fireworks as far away as possible from your property.

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