Fireworks Safety – Site Layout

 

The spectator zone

Having set out your firework and fall out zones, you then need to establish the spectator area. This must be properly marked – and marshalled – for large public venues. For smaller garden displays, ensure the audience is aware of where to stand.

Fireworks Safety Area

Roping off a safety zone

Ensure the spectator area has good access both in and out (in case of any emergencies).

 

The “perfect” venue

Putting all the above into operation results in a “textbook” site map. You’ll see something similar to this in many firework catalogues:

Fireworks Site Map

In this case the safety zone would be 25 metres wide all round, the firework zone about the same, and the fall out zone up to 50 metres.

In practice, the 100 metres or more from front to back means this set-up is only achievable for bigger events where you have the luxury of a large field to stage the display. However it does bring home the fact that many fireworks (especially large rockets) are not suitable for use in any smaller areas than this.

 

The public venue

For bigger displays, site surveying is vital. Here are some more tips when assessing land for a public or larger display:

  • Ensure you know who actually owns the land and you have their consent to use it for a firework display. Getting confirmation of this in writing is a good idea for your own protection. If applicable, ensure the local authority consents to use of the land for fireworks and if there are any important legal requirements for use of that land.
  • Check you have enough room for the fall out zone, the firework zone, the safety zone, and the spectator zone. Ensure there are no overhead obstructions in the firework zone.
  • Bear in mind if your display is to end an evening of other entertainment (eg. carnival or fair), the spectator zone will be adjacent to the other activities. Make sure when you survey the site you know where all the other activities will take place and base your layout on that.
  • Ensure the area for the display will be available only to you and that you will have access in the morning and afternoon prior to the display, not just the evening (you need to set up during the day). Make sure the area will not be shared with anyone else, this is an important safety point.
  • Check with any organisers if they will provide poles and equipment to rope off the safety zone. If they won’t, it becomes your responsibility. The area needs to be roped off before you start setting up, not during or after.
  • Also check to see if the organiser will provide any sort of marshalling or safety staff to police the crowd. If not, that’s another responsibility for you.
  • Check for easy access (in and out) of the spectator area and the firework area.
  • It’s worth checking the surrounding area too. Look for farms, kennels, hospitals or any other establishment to whom noise could be a problem. If there are any, contact them to advise them of the display and note any objections. You may need to do a bit of PR here. Few people, if warned in advance, object to fireworks if they know the display will be kept short.
  • Make sure the land owner doesn’t mind the odd bit of digging up when you stake out the fireworks. Assure them you’ll put things back as you found them (and make sure you do!).
  • Make sure there are no structures (eg. sheds, pavilions, glass houses) in the fall out zone.
  • Public liability insurance is strongly recommended and check the small print for any clauses applicable to your venue (if any).

This list is by no means exhaustive, and there is certainly a lot to think about when hosting a big display, but the tips above should give you a good starting point.

Fireworks Show

A large crowd kept behind a clear barrier and marshalled well (Firework Crazy demo night shown)

One final point, if you’re displaying for a public event, be sure to stipulate from the outset that the display can only go ahead if weather conditions on the night are safe, and that YOU will decide whether this is the case. It’s worth explaining too that the setting up of the fireworks on the day is not a guarantee that the display can be fired at the due time. You reserve the right to postpone the start time if you feel it necessary, or to modify the contents of the display (eg. no big rockets).

 

The back garden

There’s no denying the magic of a back garden display and the atmosphere it can create, but safety is just as important in a private display as a public one!

The important point is that safety distances must still be observed. That means if your garden is less than 25 metres, you shouldn’t be considering using display fireworks. And remember too, the need for a fall out zone.

This would be considered the “perfect” back garden venue:Back Garden Fireworks

The safety distance is observed and there is space behind the fireworks for fall out. Unfortunately, most people do not have the luxury of 25m+ gardens and no near neighbours. Far more common then is a scenario like this:Back Garden Fireworks

Problem: By putting the fireworks at the end of your garden you can achieve the safety distance. But, this means other gardens fall within the safety zone.

Solution: Team up with your neighbours. Get them all round to watch so neighbouring gardens will be guaranteed empty and can be used as the safety and fall out zones. However bear in mind big rockets can travel much further and are not recommended in this case. If for any reason your neighbours can’t or don’t want to join in, you should not use fireworks which would put them at risk.

And in even smaller gardens the following is not uncommon:Fireworks Layout For Small GardensProblem: Your garden is really small, there is no fall out area, and numerous other gardens and houses are within 25 metres.

Solution: Stick to garden class (5m or 8m) fireworks. At that distance they can still look and feel spectacular anyway. This type of back garden should not be used for display fireworks.

These are common examples, but obviously every single person’s circumstances are unique. Use your common sense in deciding what fireworks to use and remember to observe minimum spectator distances and have an adequate fall out zone.

Other things to watch out for in the back garden:

  • Make sure the firework area is tidy and free from things you might trip over.
  • Give yourself room to get away in case of problems (ie. don’t get trapped in the corner).
  • Cover any fish ponds in the firework safety or fall out areas. Firework debris may be toxic to fish.
  • Although back garden displays can be informal, please ensure the audience remains in the spectator area during the display.
  • If you’re starting with sparklers use these well away from the other fireworks.
  • If you’re setting up during the day please ensure no inquisitive children or pets can access the fireworks – this applies to after the display too.
  • If the weather’s really bad (eg. windy), don’t be pressured into firing anyway. Save it for another day.

Remember, it is your responsibility to ensure the safe use of the fireworks you buy!

 

If you don’t have the space

Two common space related problems are:

Lack of fall out zone

In this case ensure you use fireworks with little or no fall out. Avoid large rockets and stick to smaller cakes and candles. However if you can’t afford risk any fall out at all, you’ll have to stick to just ground based fountains and wheels. Garden class fireworks in particular eject less in the way of debris.

Lack of safety distance

If you can’t get 25 metres between the audience and display fireworks, don’t stand there scratching your head – stick to garden fireworks! It’s that simple. A display firework viewed from say ten metres away is exciting for the first few seconds then rather worrying as debris rains down on your audience. They won’t thank you for it. Neither will the hospital!

Don’t risk becoming another firework injury statistic. Letting off huge display fireworks in tiny gardens is highly dangerous. Do you really want to be remembered as the person who blinded your friend’s son or daughter? Think first!

 

Final preparations

Now you’ve secured your venue and are raring to go, there’s some final groundwork to do.

Think about who to notify about your display

For bigger events, or public shows, you should inform the police and fire brigade (call their local offices as listed in the phone book, not 999!). If you’re within a few miles of an airport (or you notice overhead traffic when site surveying) contact the relevant airport. If you’re displaying on or near the coast, be sure to notify the coastguard too. You don’t want display rockets being mistaken for flares. For garden or private displays, notify neighbours and anyone else nearby who you think may be affected by the noise. It is recommended this is done before you buy your fireworks in case any serious objections require a change of inventory (eg. quieter fireworks, or no rockets).

Think about fireworks insurance

Public liability insurance can give millions of pounds of cover and can be arranged on a per-display basis. It should be considered a matter of course for public events. It will cover you for injury to a member of the public, or damage to property. Read more about Fireworks Insurance.

Think about how many firers you’ll need

Do this well in advance because you’ll need to make sure people are free on the night, and conduct any training you feel is necessary. Remember you may need help setting up (for big displays a minimum of two people are required) so check who’s free that afternoon too. Try and have a back-up on call in case of last minute drop outs. It’s possible to fire big displays on your own if you’ve spent some time setting things up properly, but you’d have to do an incredible amount of time consuming preparation. Best to get some help if you can. If you need extra help such as marshals for the crowd, arrange this well in advance.

 

Further information

Have a look at the other articles in this section for additional help. You will also find setting up articles specific to each main type of firework.

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