Multiple agencies warn of dangers of firework displays due to pandemic

Leading authorities in Scotland are warning of the increase in private fireworks displays due to the likelihood organised displays will be cancelled because of coronavirus restrictions.

The agencies include the Scottish Government, Police Scotland, Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, the Scottish Community Safety Network, NHS Scotland, the Scottish SPCA and many more. The organisations have come together to form #FireworkSafety, an initiative to educate young people about the dangers of fireworks and bonfires and how to keep themselves safe.

The ambassador for the campaign, which launches today, is Ben McCabe who was seriously injured by a firework when he was just four-years-old.

Ben’s mum Amy McCabe was working at the hospital that Ben was rushed to. Amy reflects on the horrific night in November 2011, ‘I can’t even explain what goes through your head at a time like that. It was absolutely terrifying.

‘Ben was at a private fireworks display just outside our house when a firework went off course and went inside his shirt and caught fire.

‘He was rushed straight to the hospital where I was working. Seeing him like that is something I will never forget. Not being able to help your own child when they are going through that is a living nightmare.’

Ben suffered third-degree burns and had to endure weeks of agonising treatment and skin grafts.

Amy continues, ‘I don’t think we, as a family, will ever be OK around fireworks. Ben still has to have regular hospital visits to this day, eight years later.’

Scottish SPCA head of education, policy and research Gilly Mendes Ferreira says the multi-agencies came together due to the prediction there will be an increase in private displays this year.

Gilly said, ‘It’s looking likely that coronavirus restrictions will force the cancellation of many organised events.

‘We have joined forces to ask that people be safe, be kind and be smart around fireworks and bonfires.

‘We realise that people still want to enjoy fireworks but we ask that they do it responsibly. Fireworks have a negative effect on many people and animals across the country and we are asking people to show respect for people, their environment and any animals, domestic, farm and wild, that might be in the area.

‘People should let their neighbours know they are planning a fireworks display as this will allow them to safeguard against any distress some people and animals may face. We also ask that people check bonfires before setting them on fire to make sure there are no animals taking shelter underneath.

‘We are so pleased to have Ben as our ambassador. It takes a very brave person to speak so openly about what he and his family went though.

‘We have developed a suite of information focused around Ben’s story for both primary and secondary aged pupils.  There are videos and interactive games to teach young people about how to stay safe around fireworks and bonfires. We would urge anyone responsible for a child to visit the site.

‘People should always follow the fireworks code and know what to do in an emergency.’

Ben is now 13-years-old and will have to undergo skin grafts and treatment until his body stops growing.

Amy continues, ‘People don’t realise how quickly things can go wrong or the life-changing consequences fireworks can have. Ben will be dealing emotionally and physically with what happened one night when he was four-years-old for the rest of his life.

‘Despite all this, he wants to speak out and let people know the dangers of bonfires and fireworks are real and hopes to prevent other people from getting injured.

‘This just shows what a brave, mature and caring young man he has turned in to. We could not be more proud of him.’

People can find out more information about the campaign on the Scottish SPCA website

Commenting on the campaign, Lorraine Gillies, SCSN Chief Executive said:

The Scottish Community Safety Network is so pleased to be working with Ben, his family and all the other agencies on this vital campaign.

Partners have all come together with a single message –Be kind, Be safe and Be smart around fireworks and bonfires.  If we can achieve this then we all have a safer and more enjoyable bonfire night. 

It’s possible that more of us will be enjoying fireworks in their own private displays this year as Covod-19 restrictions prevent many organised community displays going ahead.    There are things we can all do to keep safe – this campaign highlights the impact damage from fireworks can have and also reminds us that we can still enjoy fireworks in a kind, safe and smart way.

We are thankful to Ben and his family, their kindness and strength in letting us all understand how fireworks have affected them.