Wrapping up in your winter clothes, meeting up with friends, enjoying a mulled wine, and keeping warm by a roaring bonfire – there is something special about getting together for a Fireworks Night display. With many displays unable to take place in 2020, there will be an extra buzz in the air for this year’s annual autumnal celebration - not just for attendees, but also for the charities that benefit from them. Many local charitable organisations rely on the generosity of display crowds as one of the key money-generating events of the calendar.
Whether in your garden or at an organised event, fireworks are often best enjoyed with others – however we do need to be conscious that displays have a wider impact on the environment and those that live in it. There are small achievable steps we can all take, but also bigger picture ones that can only change over time through a collective effort.
We explore some of the main concerns associated with Fireworks Day and how we can all be more considerate to ensure it continues to be an enjoyable experience for all.
Impact on animals
We have all seen the adverts and advice about checking bonfires for hedgehogs before setting them alight, but the impact on animals is far greater than just that. According to the RSPCA, 62% of dogs, 54% of cats, and 55% of horses show signs of distress during fireworks. It’s not just household pets that are impacted either – farm animals easily frightened by loud noises and sudden flashes of bright light can lead to injury, and birds becoming highly disturbed can abandon their nests and sometimes whole colonies.
The randomness of unplanned displays, particularly in people’s gardens, is what often leads to most stress. Organised licensed displays that have been advertised ahead of time to allow for awareness, and positioned away from highly populated areas, provide greater opportunity to prevent animal distress. If you are holding a garden display, then you should inform your neighbours well in advance so that they can prepare, and the fireworks do not come as an unwanted surprise.
You can find further information on how to look after animals during fireworks displays on the charity’s website.
For those with autism, fireworks can be anything but fun. Busy crowds, loud bangs and unexpected flashes can be unsettling and cause anxiety and stress for many. However, with good planning and good communication, these issues can be lessened to ensure that everyone can enjoy fireworks together.
The National Autistic Society has provided six top tips to help those with autism enjoy displays as much as everyone else:
Have a plan and stick to it
Make sure plenty of food and treats are available – and keep warm
Use a set of headphones or ear defenders and be mindful of noise
Give a safety speech
Put on the TV
Set an example
You can read further details about these tips by visiting the National Autistic Society website.
The noise and sight can be a wonder to behold, but are you aware of the impact fireworks and bonfires can have on the environment? According to Environmental Protection UK, approximately 5-14% of UK dioxin emissions are produced around Bonfire Night. Fireworks emit light, heat and sound energy along with carbon dioxide and other gases and residues. The exact emissions will depend on the firework, but as gunpowder is a main component, sulphur compounds are emitted, along with small amounts of particulates, metal oxides and organic compounds.
Although some companies are trialling more eco-friendly solutions, it may be a while before these are commonly used or sold. Reducing the number of private garden displays will go some way in reducing the number of fireworks and bonfires lit. More recently we’ve seen the advent of laser and drone shows, providing an impressive visual alternative to traditional fireworks, and being far more environmentally friendly.
To read the Environmental Protection UK’s full fireworks document, click here.
Despite repeated warnings, far too many people, particularly children, end up in hospital during the Fireworks period. According to the Children’s Burns Trust, over 550 children under 16 are taken to A&E in the four weeks surrounding bonfire night alone. Injuries to the eyes, heads and hands are most common, with most incidents occurring at private or family displays.
If children enjoy displays from a safe distance, never handle fireworks (keep sparkles away from under 5-year-olds), and are aware of the Stop, Drop and Roll rule if their clothes catch alight, then there is no reason that children can’t enjoy fireworks as much as anyone else.
More advice is available from the Children’s Burn Trust on its website.
The bright colours and loud noises of Fireworks Night can be a magical thing to experience; it is hard not to be absorbed by them. By widening our understanding and awareness of their impact, we can also take steps towards ensuring the consequences of displays are lessened, and become better for us, animals and the environment as a whole.