Many children suffer life-changing injuries at this time of year. That’s why it’s important to celebrate safety around Halloween and Bonfire Night.
By Jennifer Green – with thanks to our colleagues at Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service
If only someone had explained the basics of fire safety to the Talking Heads perhaps there would have been a fewer fire hazards in Psycho Killer. Who knows, maybe it would have been a much happier song.
But wait, before you run run run run run run away – allow us to introduce you to our Halloween special! It’s the time of year when candles and costumes, bonfires and alcohol, sparklers, dark nights and trick-or-treating all start mingling.
Every year there are life-changing injuries caused by bonfire and firework accidents, and it is children who are most susceptible to harm. Please let us share some advice that will keep this time of year a happy and safe one for all of your family.
(fa fa fa fa fa fa fa fa fa fa)
Children, drunk people and parties
Gone are the days when your Halloween costume was 90% bin liner and 10% face paint. Children these days have high standards and many shops and online retailers are selling fancy dress costumes for a few pounds.
However, those layers of tulle and straggly ends can be extremely flammable, especially when packed into a crowded room or running around playing party games. Make sure you have a killer, thriller night by following this basic advice:
- Check the labels on your fancy dress outfits to make sure that they are fire resistant and have the CE logo to show that they are made to the correct safety standards – UK manufactured outfits should have these, but buy online and it’s hard to tell what you are getting.
- Keep children and adults costumes away from naked flames. Ideally use LED candles which don’t even get warm but still look great. You can get these at many pound shops and that one place in the town centre that sounds like ‘schmimark’.
- If you insist on real candles don’t place them on the floor or on crowded surfaces. We don’t want any being kicked or knocked over by humans, pets or other familiars.
- Keep the flame a safe distance from curtains, furniture and decorations and don’t leave them unattended. At a recent fire service training event, it was explained to use that this is one of the common ways for fires in the home to start!
If you insist on having your own bonfire – even though most accidents occur at private bonfire and firework events – our friends at the fire service would very much like you to follow these rules:
- Designate at least one person to be responsible for the bonfire. You may or may not want to designate them ‘Bonfire Captain’, that part is up to you. Choose a friend who will stay sober, we don’t want anyone drunk and in charge of fire!
- Before lighting the fire, check its construction carefully to make sure that it is stable, and that there are not any children or animals inside. Check it when you set it up and check it again before you light it.
- Make your bonfire at least 18 metres away from houses, garages, sheds, fences, trees shrubs or hedges
- Don’t use petrol, paraffin, or other accelerant to light the fire and only burn wood and a small amount of paper or cardboard kindling
- Have a hose pipe to hand and check it is connected to a water supply with good pressure before lighting your bonfire
- After you are done, take time to make sure the bonfire is completely extinguished before you get the Bonfire Captain a celebratory drink.
Firework Do’s and Don’t’s
Finally, we have to address the fireworks themselves. Your sober, responsible, adult – Bonfire Captain – should also be the only person responsible for lighting fireworks.
- DO always buy fireworks from a reputable shop to make sure that they conform to British Standards. This means that they should have BS 7114 written on the box.
- DO Keep fireworks in a closed metal box and take them out one at a time to prevent any accidentally catching light. A metal box could be an emptied out tool box or even a large sturdy biscuit tin!
- DO follow the manufacturer’s instructions on each firework
- DON’T read firework instructions with a naked flame, have a torch handy and use that instead
- DO light fireworks at arm’s length using a safety firework lighter or fuse wick
- DO stand well back after lighting
- DON’T go back to a firework once lit. So many accidents happen this way. Leave it and hose it off to fully extinguish.
- DON’T give sparklers to children under 5 – sparklers are five times hotter than cooking oil when lit!
- DO make sure everyone using sparklers wears gloves, especially children. When the sparkler has finished, put it in a bucket of cold water.
- DO keep pets safe and secure inside. If you have to let them out into the garden to toilet, go with them and ideally put them on a lead so that if they are scared and do bolt they can’t escape away from you. Learn more about looking after your werewolves and hell-cats night here.
Be Considerate of Others
For veterans with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), the sights, sounds and smells of fireworks around Bonfire Night and other celebrations can be an unwelcome trigger for upsetting and frightening memories of conflict.
Consideration for those around you is another reason to go to managed, organised bonfires and avoid having private ones. This helps people who want to avoid bonfires and fireworks to do so. You can find more information at Shoulder to Soldier.
From all of us at Healthy Telford and Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service, happy Halloween!