Planning a Large Firework Display – Information from the DTI

  • January 6, 2010 5:29 pm

These notes are intended for those organisers who are mounting firework displays for the general public. It contains important information about your responsibilities to the public and your staff.It will only take 10 minutes to read but could make the difference between a successful event and a tragedy.

Sharing the load and keeping authorities informed

1. Where do I begin?







  • Running a display takes a lot of work, so try to share the load by planning ahead
  • Set up a committee whose members can each take responsibility for a particular task (including one person to be in charge of all safety arrangements)
  • Be clear on who will do what and when
  • Be sure each member has a photocopy of this guide and follows its advice
  • If possible try to recruit at least one person with previous experience of firework displays
  • Remember – fireworks not marked with ‘Complies with BS7114 Part 2 1988’ are suitable for use only by professionals


 2. Who should I tell?



 Don’t forget it’s a busy time for the authorities – give them plenty of warning so that they can best help you

Organisation Name Tel.
Fire Brigade
First Aid
Local Authority


The Location



 3. How much space will I need?



 As much as possible

  • Allow at least 50m x 20m for your firing area. beyond this you will need a dropping zone for spent fireworks of 100m x 50m in the downwind direction
  • Spectators should be kept back on the opposite side from the dropping zone at least 25m from the firing zone.




 Site Plan Click on the image to enlarge



 4. Where’s the best site?

 A clear and well-mown area, free from obstructions well away from any building, trees and hazards like overhead cables, with as many safe entrances and exits as possible. These must be away from the firing area and dropping zone. Make sure that all entrances and exits are well lit, clearly signposted and kept free from obstructions. Clear away any undergrowth or very long grass. Have plenty of (metal) litter bins around the site. Make sure you can cater properly for disabled spectators. Watch out for any animals likely to be housed nearby.



 5. What about car parking? 



 Falling fireworks can cause damage, so site any designated car parking well away from your display area and dropping zone, and upwind of the display. Signpost any car park clearly and make sure that the entrance is quite separate from pedestrian access. Do not permit parking anywhere else.



 6. How do I organise the spectators?

  • Proper crowd control is essential and needs good planning
  • Arrange for some stewards to be responsible for just this – at least one steward for every 250 spectators. Their job won’t be finished until the display is over, the site is cleared and made safe. Your stewards should be easy to identify, perhpas with flourescent bibs or jackets
  • Be certain that your team know what to do in an emergency and have practised safety drills.
  • Spectators must not be allowed into your display area. if they do encroach stop the display immediately. prepare and erect signs to clearly show area.
  • Beware of overcrowding – seek advice from the Police and follow it
  • Fireworks and alcohol don’t mix. This will make crowd control more difficult.
  • None of the organisers should have alcoholic drinks
  • Do not allow spectators to enter the site witrh their own fireworks – even sparklers. Make sure there are signs explaining this at all entrances


 7. How do I let off the fireworks?

  • With great care at all stages
  • Recruite people with previous experience of firework displays. Have as few people as possible actually involved with the fireworks
  • Do not allow smoking by your team when fireworks are being handled, or at any time during the display
  • Unpack fireworks with great care and well away from any open fire, naked flame or flammable material. Remember that they are fragile and can easily be broken. Keep fireworks in a secure box which is kept closed
  • Before lighting any firework read the instructions on it carefully (by torchlight)
  • Make sure that the wind and the display are angled away from spectators
  • For lighting display type fireworks, a device called a Portfire is often provided by the manufacturer. Use portfires when available and always light fireworks at arm’s length. Keep unused Portfires in a metal or wooden box and never carry them in pockets
  • Alternative forms of safety lighter, such as a slow match, are often available
  • Never use matches or lighters for lighting fireworks at a display. If any firework fails to go off, don’t go back to it. It could still be live, and could go off in your face. Half an hour is the absolute minimum time to wait before you consider approaching it again
  • A sudden change of wind could cause fireworks to fall dangerously among spectators. In very windy weather, you should consider putting off the display altogether, however disappointing that may be.


 8. Must I have a bonfire?

NO. Bonfires need a lot of organising and can be a hazard. Many displays are a great success without one.

  • If, after careful consideration, you do decide to have a bonfire, make one person responsible for it, from early planning to final clearing up
  • Don’t site it too near your display or firework storage area
  • Never use flammable liquids like paraffin or petrol to get it going as this can result in uncontrolled spread of fire or explosion
  • Check immediately before lighting that there’s no animal or even a young child hidden inside
  • Never put fireworks on a bonfire, even if they’re dud
  • Don’t burn dangerous rubbish (eg aeorsols, paint tins or foam-filled furniture)
  • Remove any rubbish from your bonfire area in advance so there’s nothing that can be thrown onto the fire on the night


 9. And when it’s all over?

  • The work for you and your team doesn’t finish when the last firework goes off
  • Spectators need to be cleared safely from the site
  • Bonfire needs to be put out completely
  • Gather spent firework cases
  • Clear the site and ensure it is safe for people and animals to use again


 10. Gathering spent fireworks 

  • With a torch, use tongs, or some other suitable tool and wear strong gloves
  • Don’t allow any children to collect firework cases
  • Burning the spent cases is potentially dangerous and should be done with great care only after all your spectators have gone
  • If any fireworks look as if they haven’t gone off at least half an hour after the display, douse them in a bucket of water and ask the Fire Brigade for advice
  • Aerial shells should be doused in a bucket of water and then buried deep in the ground
  • Finally, empty all the litter bins, remove any other rubbish, take down all your signs and leave the site as clear as possible and completely safe. You might want to go back the next morning to check everything in daylight
  • If any outside organisations are present at your display – Fire Brigade, Police, first aid etc – don’t forget to ‘sign off’ with them at the end of the evening


 11. What can I do in advance? 

As much as possible! As well as liaising with the local authority, police, Fire Brigade and first aid organisations, you or your appropriate team member should:-

  • Arrange for your fireworks to be delivered and stored securely (and circulate the manufacturers’ general instructions to your team)
  • Arrange for you and your team to be trained in the various tasks for the night, including all emergency drills
  • Arrange for first aid posts to be manned by qualified people. Borrow or hire speacial clothing (bibs, jackets etc) to identify you and your team on the night
  • Arrange some form of public address system – as a safety measure, not just for commentry. A loud hailer will do as a bare minimum
  • Arrange for fire extinguishers, buckets of water, buckets of sand and metal litter bins to be available on the night
  • Check that plenty of electrical torches will be available on the night, with full batteries
  • Publicise the fact that spectators are not allowed to bring their own fireworks (including sparklers) and will not be admitted if they do so
  • Prepare all necessary signs
  • Make absolutely sure that you’ll have enough people available on the night (including some cover for illness)
  • Draw up a detailed checklist of tasks and indicate who is responsible for each one
  • Check whether you are adequately insured to cover any firework-related injuries to those present at the display
  • Vet any traders you allow on the site
  • Animals can be terrified of fireworks. Warn your neighbours and local farmers in advance so that they can keep pets indoors and take other necessary precautions

HSE books

Other advice is available

Comprehensive guides on organising firework displays are on sale from good

booksellers or direct from HSE Books, PO Box 1999, Sudbury, Suffolk CO10 6FS

Tel: 01787 881165 Fax: 01787 313995

The Fireworks (Safety) Regulations 1997 prohibited the supply of aerial shells to the general public.

Extracts taken from DTI leaflet

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