Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Display Fireworks Safety

We all know how emotional and awe-inspiring outdoor, display fireworks can be, especially after seeing the display at major public events such as the opening of the World Expo. That emotion comes with a price tag, and the price is not just in the cost of the fireworks themselves. The safety factor is undeniably the most important one in getting approval for a show. I'm sure readers have heard of some of the disasters that arise from lack of proper safety considerations, and ignoring safety can lead to exorbitant liability costs. Here is some insight about how to best get approval for a fireworks show.

The USA and Canada have set up stringent regulations that govern the permit requirements, setup, placement, loading, safe distances of crowds, cleanup, storage, and transportation of commercial display fireworks. In the US, the most important documents are the National Fire Protection Association standard NFPA 1123: Fireworks Display (2006 Edition) and NFPA 1124: Code for the Manufacturing, Transportation, Storage and Retail Sale of Fireworks and Pyrotechnic Articles (2006 Edition). In Canada, the comparable governing document is the Display Fireworks Manual, put out by the Explosives Regulatory Division (ERD) of Natural Resources Canada. Any event producers contemplating using display fireworks should obtain a current copy of the applicable federal documents, as well as local state, provincial, or municipal regulations which may differ throughout each country. Generally speaking, any event producer who wishes to hold an outdoor fireworks display must have the following in their possession, either personally or through the official fireworks contractor.

  • License or certification to work with display fireworks. This could be either a state requirement (if in the USA) and requirements may differ throughout the country, or a federal requirement (if in Canada). In Canada, certification is the law, and is set to federal standards by the ERD. Anyone who handles display fireworks must be at least an Apprentice. Any producers who are planning display fireworks shows should always insist that the fireworks contractor be fully certified.
  • Approval to purchase display fireworks (usually federal and/or state).
  • Permit to hold a fireworks display (usually obtained from the AHJ or "authority having jurisdiction," such as local municipal fire, parks, or police department). Occasionally, the permit and approval to purchase are the same, depending on the jurisdiction.
  • Permission of land owner, lessee, or agent to hold a fireworks display.
  • Insurance of a minimum amount and type as specified by contract (i.e. the client/producer contract) and local regulations (usually the same organization that grants the permit). The most common minimum amount now required is $5 million liability.
  • A site plan with complete details of crowd and fireworks locations, emergency access, water locations, etc. (usually a requirement of the AHJ).
This is one area where trying to skirt the rules cannot be tolerated. Good luck and enjoy your next fireworks show.

Find out more about outdoor display fireworks and indoor proximate pyrotechnics in my new book Special Event Production: The Resources.