Remember, Remember the 5th of November, gunpowder, treason and plot… So goes the opening part of the nursery rhyme written to commemorate the Gunpowder Plot.
In 1605, a group of English Catholics who felt persecuted for their religious beliefs, planned to take action against the reigning monarch by blowing up the Houses of Parliament, aiming to assassinate the King and others in the process.
It is said that one member of the group got cold feet and sent a letter warning of the plan because he realised that innocent people could be harmed. Whatever the case, the Gunpowder Plot was thwarted, the conspirators were caught, and the rest, as they say, is history.
On the night that the plot was foiled, bonfires were set alight to celebrate the safety of the King. Since then, November 5th has become known as Bonfire Night. A man by the name of Guy Fawkes was responsible for lighting the fuse to the gunpowder hidden under the Houses of Parliament. This resulted in him becoming the public face of the plot, even though he wasn’t the ringleader. That’s why bonfire night is celebrated not just with fireworks, but also with the burning of an effigy of Guy Fawkes, known as “the Guy.”
Bonfire Night has remained a popular event, with celebrations taking place the length and breadth of the land. Who doesn’t recall childhood memories of watching in wonder and anticipation as the bonfire was lit and magnificent, colourful fireworks were released into an unsuspecting night sky? Even as adults, we excite at the loud bangs and whistling that accompany those brilliant colours and bring gasps of admiration from a watchful crowd. It’s such an amazing event! So how can we make a night which commemorates the safety of a king, safe for everyone taking part?
Unsurprisingly, the most common risk arising from Bonfire Night is burns. Don’t worry, though, we have plenty of advice to keep you safe, and to deal with burns if they do occur.
Celebrate With Care
We advocate going to an organised, public display of fireworks if you can, as strict safety rules are followed and there are first aiders or medical professionals present. If you do plan to have your own Bonfire Night party at home though, there are a few simple steps you can take to be as prepared as possible.
First and foremost, make sure you have plenty of first aid supplies on hand, as well as a fire blanket, a bucket of sand and easy access to water. Also make sure that your fireworks conform to British Safety Standards and that you have lots of space in which to ignite them safely. Never attempt to relight or approach a firework that doesn’t go off.
Sparkle and Shine
Everybody loves sparklers, whether you’re the type of person who likes to stand and watch them sizzle and burn down to the end, or one who likes to swirl them around in big arcs, watching the sparkles dance through the air. They burn hot though, so are not suitable for very little children, and even older children should be supervised to make sure they have enough space to move around safely.
Sparklers should be lit one at a time while wearing gloves. Once the sparkler is finished, put it in a bucket of sand and be careful that no one picks it up until it is completely cool.
If someone gets burned, whatever you do, don’t follow one of the old wives’ tales that, according to a British Red Cross poll, one in ten parents might choose. That means avoiding spray-on cooling creams, butter and toothpaste! Instead, cool the burn under cold running water for at least 10 minutes but preferably longer. This helps to reduce pain, swelling and the risk of scarring. If you don’t have access to water you can use other cold liquids such as milk, juice or beer. Bare in mind, though, that it is also important to keep the casualty as warm as possible.
If the casualty is burnt through clothing, don’t attempt to remove anything that is stuck to the burn, as this could cause more damage. Just run cold water over the burn through the clothing and seek medical help. However, if the clothing is free from the burn, you can safely remove it.
Once the burn is cool, cover it with cling film or a clean plastic bag to help prevent infection. If the casualty is very young or the burn is severe, seek medical help by calling 999.
Stop, Drop, Wrap and Roll
If someone’s clothing is on fire, use “stop, drop, wrap and roll” to remember the best course of action: get them to stop moving around, as air will fan the flames; help them drop to the ground; wrap them in a blanket or coat; and roll them to put the flames out.
While waiting for professional help to arrive, keep cooling the burn under running water, but try to keep areas that are not burnt as warm as possible to help the casualty retain body heat.
There are three key things to remember if you find yourself in this situation:
- don’t touch or try to remove anything from the burn
- don’t use lotions, ointments, creams or adhesives
- don’t break any blisters that form.
You should also watch out for signs of shock and be ready to treat accordingly if they become evident. Symptoms of shock vary depending on the circumstances, but a few to be aware of are rapid pulse, shallow or quick breaths, nausea or vomiting and dizziness or fainting.
A general rule of thumb is to lay the person down with his/her legs elevated slightly, unless this will cause pain or further injury. Keep the casualty still and only move him or her if necessary for safety.
Where there is fire, there are sparks and bits of particles that can be blown into people’s eyes. If this happens, wash your hands if you can, then carefully open the casualty’s eye. If you can see something in the eye and it is moving freely, use a sterile eye wash and irrigate the eye to remove it, taking care to do so as gently as possible. If there is something lodged in the eye, cover both eyes and phone for an ambulance. It is important the casualty does not rub the eye or try removing an embedded object while awaiting medical treatment.
These simple steps should help you keep everyone as safe and healthy as a king at your next Bonfire Night celebration. You may like to take your preparations one step further by enrolling in one of our first aid courses.
Level 3 Award in Emergency Paediatric First Aid
Level 3 Award in Paediatric First Aid
First Aid for Parents