While the British public enjoy the spectacle and excitement of Guy Fawkes Night, November 5th is generally the busiest day of the year for the UK Fire and Rescue Services. With fireworks, hand-held sparklers and bonfires, it’s no wonder the emergency services are on full alert.
Despite tight controls on the sale of fireworks, regulations on bonfires and comprehensive public awareness campaigns, people still inevitably make mistakes, potentially putting lives and property in danger.
The figures speak for themselves
London Fire Brigade statistics for 2016 showed a 32% increase in call outs on Guy Fawkes Night, compared to the previous year. Overall, the Brigade’s firefighters attended 501 incidents throughout the 24-hour period, compared with 340 for the same period in 2015.
Worryingly, there were 142 fires, including two serious residential blazes, caused by fireworks. However, it is not just the number of actual incidents that test emergency services resources. Figures for 2016 show that the Brigade’s control centre dealt with 450 calls (with 234 actual incidents) between 6pm and 11.30pm, which also causes a considerable strain.
A well-organised public display is more likely to be safely managed than a private event. Rules on what to burn on bonfires are designed to minimise dangers to people’s health, property, and traffic, with a threat of hefty fines if they are not followed.
Fireworks are also well known for causing injuries. Figures from a recent year showed there were 990 injuries caused by fireworks in October and November, with 479 people of all ages requiring hospital treatment.
Unfortunately, as well as genuine calls for assistance to the emergency services there are also hoax calls and even incidences of deliberate arson to contend with.
Keeping people and property safe
Highly effective communications are a key part of the Fire and Rescue Service’s response. From receiving 999 calls in the control room, to notifying the individual stations and pumps (along with summoning Retained Firefighters when needed), lives often depend on this.
Unified messaging systems that utilise phones, smartphone apps and robust paging systems all play key roles in the process.
Undoubtedly the emergency services play a vital role in ensuring that Guy Fawkes Night has a fun and safe conclusion, but it is also important that the public recognises the potential dangers and ensures precautions and diligence help the emergency services to keep us all safe.