Scotland’s leading authorities are issuing a stark reminder of the devastating impact that fireworks use and the sight and sound of fireworks can have on people and animals.
The Scottish Government, Police Scotland, Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, NHS Scotland, the Scottish SPCA and many more have come together for the second year running for #FireworkSafety, an initiative to educate young people about the dangers of fireworks and bonfires and how to keep themselves safe.
The campaign has launched a month earlier than in 2020 to coincide with the dates fireworks are on sale to the general public.
In 2019 the Scottish Government launched a public consultation on the use and sale of fireworks which received over 16,000 responses. 87% of respondents supported a ban on the public sale of fireworks and 94% supported an increase on regulations of fireworks. In addition to the public consultation, an online survey of a representative sample of the Scottish population achieved 1,002 responses in which 58% supported a ban of public sale of fireworks and 71% welcomed an increase in control of fireworks in Scotland.
The ambassador for #FireworkSafety is Ben McCabe who was seriously injured by a firework when he was just four years old.
Ben’s mum Amy McCabe remembers the life-changing 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, ten years later.’
Scottish SPCA head of education, policy and research Gilly Mendes Ferreira says the multi-agencies partnered up last year due to the potential increase in private displays due to public events being cancelled by the pandemic.
Gilly said, ‘We’re proud to take the partnership approach for a second year to ask people to consider #FireworkSafety. We want people to be safe, be kind and be smart around fireworks and bonfires.
‘Over the last five years, the Scottish SPCA has attended 184 incidents involving fireworks. This may not sound impressive over that time period but a third of the total has been between October 1 and November 5 every year. This means jobs are concentrated largely on fireworks season every year.
‘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 honoured to have Ben as our ambassador for the second year. He’s an incredibly brave person to speak out about a very difficult time in his life to stop other people going through what he and his family did.
‘Ben has been transformed in to a superhero avatar to guide primary and secondary aged pupils through videos and interactive games to teach them 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 14 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.’
#FireworkSafety launches today. People can find out more information about the campaign on the Scottish SPCA website www.scottishspca.org/firework-safety.