With fireworks night 2022 almost upon us, and some additional changes to legislation coming into force, it’s more important than ever that we put safety first, and consider other people, and our furry friends before lighting that bonfire.
I don’t know if it’s just me – but with every passing year, the period around Guy Fawkes night seems to increase in length. Of course, I remember it’s the 5th of November, but the constant flash bangs seem to start earlier and finish later with every passing year.
With this prolonged period, come safety concerns, and worries about our families, including our canine and feline companions.
Changes to legislation (2021)
New rules on fireworks were put in place last year, placing restrictions on the purchasing and setting off of fireworks, tightening the rules, with the intention of limiting the disruption caused to pets and members of the community who are frightened around this period, as well as improving safety.
The legislation means that fireworks can only be used between 6pm and 11pm (or midnight on November 5) by the general public, and can only be sold between 7am and 6pm, while the quantity supplied is limited to 5kg per transaction.
New Rules for 2022
Anyone in breach of the Fireworks and Pyrotechnic Articles (Scotland) Act will be subject to a fine of £5,000, a six-month prison term, or both. It was already illegal to sell adult fireworks to children or for anyone under 18 to possess adult fireworks.
The Scottish Government also introduced legislation to make a firework attack on ambulance, police, and fire crews an aggravating factor which can be taken into account in sentence hearings.
According to Scottish Fire and Rescue, in 2021, there were eight reported attacks on crews along with three injuries. Their figures also indicate that firefighters responded to more than 370 bonfires across the country during an eight-hour period on the 5th of November.
Advice Direct Scotland is urging the public not to forget the impacts that the improper handling of fireworks can have.
For those with pets, moving them to the quietest part of the property, closing windows and curtains, and keeping them company while the noise continues is important. Creating other low-level noise like music or television can also help to ease an animal’s anxiety.
Under Section 56 of the Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982, it is an offense for any person to lay or light a fire in a public place so as to endanger any other person or to give them reasonable cause for alarm or annoyance or so as to endanger any property.
It’s also important for us to remember to ensure there is adequate distance if we light bonfires – from trees, overhead cables, and properties. Fire spreads easily, and with high winds, can spread faster, so be careful. Better still – attend a professionally arranged event instead!
Firework and Bonfire Safety – Physical and psychological wellbeing
With safety in mind, we must not forget the impacts that the improper handling of fireworks and bonfires can have on the physical wellbeing of those directly in the line of fire.
Additionally, consideration of the more vulnerable members of our communities who may become startled by loud bangs and excessive noise is important. These groups include veterans, who may suffer from panic attacks or symptoms of PTSD, and other groups experiencing mental health issues.
So, what can you do this fireworks night to ensure you minimise the risks associated with fireworks and bonfires?
Colin Mathieson, spokesperson for Advice Direct Scotland, said:
“This Bonfire Night, the best advice is to enjoy it safely and try to attend an officially organised display.
“Celebrations will be far more enjoyable for everyone if people take care in what they are doing and respect the law.
“Every year the emergency services are placed under immense pressure because of private or irresponsible fires.
“We need to be mindful of that pressure and do everything we can to reduce the risk and ease the burden.
“The days around November 5 can also be hugely stressful for pets. If you do have neighbours with animals and are intending to set off fireworks, be sure to speak to them about how you can limit the impact.
“And if you’re worried about pets of your own, move them to the quietest part of the property and keep them company, and consider playing some soft music or sounds to soothe them.
“Anyone with any consumer-related queries can contact the national consumer advice service, consumeradvice.scot, for free, impartial and practical advice.”
Consumeradvice.scot have put together our top tips to help stay safe this bonfire night:
Be aware of surroundings if setting a bonfire at home
If a bonfire must be set at home, ensure this is kept well away from buildings, vehicles, trees, hedges, fences, power lines, telecommunications equipment, and sheds. Bonfires should not impact upon visibility on roads or otherwise inconvenience vehicles.
Be conscious of your own and neighbour’s wellbeing (including the animals)
Ensure that smoke / flying embers from the fire do not cause a nuisance to neighbours’ person or property. Remember that certain materials can cause the emission of harmful smoke and combustion. Pressurised containers and sealed vessels amongst bonfire material pose a risk of explosion – be aware. Ensure pets are kept indoors and in as quiet a place as possible.
Alcohol and fire don’t mix
Don’t go near fireworks or bonfires when under the influence of alcohol. Ignoring local by-laws and drinking in public places is still illegal. Police may issue fixed penalty tickets or send a report in relation to this to the Procurator Fiscal.
Don’t throw fireworks onto the bonfire and avoid the use of flammable liquids to ignite bonfires
Use proprietary firelighters and avoid flammable liquids.
Never leave a burning/smouldering bonfire unsupervised and never leave children unsupervised Make sure that bonfires are completely extinguished and not left unattended. Keep children safe by ensuring they are kept away from bonfires and at a safe distance from fireworks. Remember that behaviours and actions in relation to fireworks and bonfires, that are considered to be irresponsible or dangerous, are subject to removal.
If you would like more advice on the illegal sale of fireworks, or any consumer matter, you can contact consumeradvice.scot on 0808 164 6000. We are open 9am-5pm, Monday-Friday.