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Dangerous drinking - why alcohol and fireworks don’t mix

Bonfire Night, the evening of the November 5th, happens once a year doesn’t it? It would seem not.

“In recent years we’ve seen a marked increase in the number of bonfires and firework displays held throughout every weekend in November, and even through December and into the New Year in some regions,” explains Jim, a Health and Safety Officer with East Sussex County Council. “It seems that people these days simply can’t get enough of them.”

Interestingly, alcohol sales also increase during this time of year.

Irresponsible retailers

Every year across the UK people are injured (sometimes even fatally), through being drunk while handling fireworks, or through getting too close to bonfires. The law states that fireworks must not be sold to anyone under the age of 18, but some unscrupulous retailers ignore this in a bid to maximise profits in a concentrated period of time.

“In Sussex last year we had several situations where 13 and 14 year olds were caught on CCTV buying fireworks and then buying cigarettes and alcohol from local shops, all in the same afternoon” explains Sue, of Sussex Police. “Irresponsible retailers should beware. Police in the South East – across the entire country, in fact – are cracking down on illegal selling of fireworks and alcohol. The two simply don’t mix. We expect a spate of firework-related injuries and crimes over the Christmas and New Year period this year.”

Public displays are less risky

Public firework displays have been found to be safer than firework parties held in people’s back gardens. This might seem obvious, given that most public displays are properly organised and sometimes supervised by police (with other emergency services being on standby, or even being present). But a key difference between public and home displays is the availability of alcohol on the night. If a fridge full of beers is only a few feet away, people are going to drink more, particularly when the party gets into full swing. In fact, research suggests that people drink alcohol at 90% of fireworks parties held in back gardens.

Drinking and fireworks – basic safety advice:

  • Never drink alcohol if you are setting off fireworks
  • Nominate people who are not drinking alcohol to take charge of firework displays
  • Keep guests who are drinking alcohol well away from fireworks
  • Consider limiting the availability of alcohol until after the firework display
  • Do not carry fireworks in your pocket to street parties or celebrations

“A survey showed that over 60% of respondents said that people setting off fireworks (as part of back garden parties/displays) had drunk at least two to three units of alcohol,” explains Simone, a mother of three, whose nine year old daughter Clara suffered severe burns at a firework display. “This increases the risk of injury and makes adults less able to supervise children properly during the display. Every time I look at Clara I feel disgusted with myself for failing to stop my ex-husband, Miles, drinking copious amounts of beer on the night of the fireworks accident.”

The clear message, going into the Christmas and New Year period, is that alcohol and fireworks don’t mix.

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