Fireworks: A Few Things Everyone Should Know
Fireworks represent a type of relatively low-explosive pyrotechnic devices. In most cases, they are used for fireworks displays. This means that their basic objective is to entertain viewers by providing outstanding, extraordinary displays. Today, people are using fireworks for different kinds of special events including birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, corporate events, sports matches and more. If you want to learn more about fireworks, keep reading this article because we have prepared a guide for you.
There are many people who think that fireworks are a modern invention, but the fact is that these devices have a very long history that goes back hundreds of years in the past. It was the people of Ancient China in the period of the great Han dynasty that has invented fireworks. Back then, Chinese people were using gunpowder primarily for creating weapons and firecrackers.
Even though there is no official record of the inventor and the exact year when these devices were created, there is a story that may not be far from the truth about the invention of fireworks. Namely, according to this story, an army chief in China created a mixture of some commonly found ingredients in the kitchen – charcoal, saltpetre, and sulfur. After that, he threw the mixture in the fire and as a result of that, he saw a magnificent visual display that included flames in many colours. The chef thought that if he can place that mixture in an enclosed bamboo shoot he can achieve even better results and he was right – he got colourful flames and an explosion too. His experiments marked the creation of the first firecracker. It didn’t take much time before Ancient Chinese have started using fireworks at their weddings, religious festivals, and celebrations.
According to other stories, a Chinese monk known as Li Tian was the man who invented fireworks. He took a bamboo flute, packed it with gunpowder and ignited it. He used it to scare off the spirit of a dangerous dragon that terrorized the Chinese emperor Li Shimin of the Tang dynasty. There’s another version that involved Li Tian too. This story takes place in Hunan province in time when people had to deal with floods and droughts. That’s why Li Tian decided to fight the evil spirits by firing some fireworks. After his firework display, these rapid changes in the weather were over. Even in modern times, Chinese people are celebrating the introduction of firecrackers on 18th April every year. While we are talking about the origins of fireworks, we should mention that some people believe that they were invented in India, but the truth is that there are more sources that indicate that this discovery was unveiled in China.
The emergence of black powder was a true game-changer for the fireworks. People in European countries were especially inventive in the Middle Ages when it comes to fireworks. The popularity of fireworks kept increasing and it reached America too. Decades before the Independence War, fireworks were used across the United States during celebrations and special events. Back in 1777, people have organized the first firework show in America. Nowadays, American use fireworks to celebrate their Independence Day. Of course, they use it to mark other special events too.
How Are Fireworks Made?
There are many different types of fireworks out there, but when people are talking about fireworks they usually mean aerial fireworks. That’s why we will take them as an example. Keep in mind that most of the fireworks are made from these common materials and work in a similar way.
So, in most cases, we are talking about a shell that includes four different parts. First and foremost, there is a container. This container is made of pasted paper and string that create a shape of a cylinder. Next, you will find stars which actually represent cubes, spheres or cylinders based on sparkler-like materials. The third element of fireworks is the bursting charge. This charge is similar to the one found in firecrackers and it is located at the shell’s centre. Finally, there’s a fuse which serves as a delayer – it delays the time needed for the shell to explode at the altitude and at time of your choosing.
One of the most important parts of every firework is the shell which is usually launched from a specially designed mortar. Typically, the mortar is a short pipe often made of steel with a special lifting charge that consists of black powder. The mortar exploded in the pipe leading to the launching of the shell. In this process, the lifting charge lights the fuse. This fuse slowly burns and as the shell goes up it ignites the charge which finally explodes.
The simplest form of a shell includes paper tubes packed with black powder and stars. The above-mentioned stars are available in different sizes and shapes, but in most cases, they look similar to sparkler compounds. These stars are placed in the tube and covered in black powder. The explosion spreads these stars in every direction resulting in a large sphere of sparkling lights.
Of course, there are some more complex shells which include multiple explosions. They are known as multi-break shells and many of them include stars in different colours and shapes that create even more interesting displays in the sky.
The materials we have mentioned and the structure of fireworks has a direct impact on the final display. This is the reason why people should focus on buying fireworks from reputable manufacturers. In this way, they can expect to get the best display because the fireworks are made with the help of high-quality materials.
Types of Fireworks (Categories)
As previously mentioned, fireworks are available for many centuries now and over this period of time, people were able to create many different types and categories of fireworks. There is no official law that separates the different types of fireworks, but in most places where you can purchase fireworks, you can find the same types of fireworks.
Mine fireworks are ground fireworks that shoot stars and in some cases other similar garnitures in the sky. They are shot from a mortar and the mine includes a canister with a charge located on the bottom and the effects coming out from the top of the mine. They usually come in sizes between 3 and 5 inches (diameter).
Cake fireworks represent clusters of independent tubes linked by a fuse. They fire a series of special aerial effects. The tubes found in it come in different sizes that can reach up to 4 inches. In many cases, they can create more than one thousand shots. They are best known for the variety of effects they are creating and the long display.
This is a quite popular type of fireworks in the recent years. It is able to create a special effect thanks to the huge stars that are burning slowly in the sky. They leave long trails of bright sparks and a sizzling noise. They burn away quite slowly which is not typical for standard fireworks that fade away quickly.
Here’s another example of a type of fireworks that is very popular today. This is actually a shell that is more focused on the audio effects, not the visual effects. They are packed with flash powder which creates a very fast flash and a noise report. In some cases, the manufacturers are adding titanium to create a circle of bright sparks located around the flash. When it comes to a firework display, salutes are usually used at the end of the display as some sort of finale.
As one of the oldest type of fireworks, it is no wonder why most people have heard about it. Roman candles are long tubes that come with a few large stars which are released at a specific period of time. Crisscrossing and fan shapes are the most commonly used shapes at special events where Roman candles are included. Keep in mind that there are large Roman candles that include small shells instead of stars.
They have a large shell that includes a few smaller shells in different types and sizes. In other words, you can get multiple effects from one firework.
A type of firework with a self-explanatory name. Ring fireworks come with a shell that includes specially-positioned stars that form a ring. In modern times, manufacturers are creating ring fireworks in the shape of hearts, smiley faces, and clovers.
Besides this type of fireworks, we can separate fireworks by many other factors like their size (big, mid-sized and small fireworks), by the events where they are used (wedding fireworks, birthday fireworks etc.) and few other factors.
Let’s not forget that there are different categories of fireworks too. In the UK, there are four categories of fireworks.
These fireworks are considered very low hazard fireworks that create a mild noise and they can be used both indoor and outdoor. Yet, they should not be used by children under 5 years.
These are low hazard fireworks that create low noise level. They are created for outdoor use in specially designated areas.
The fireworks that belong to Category F3 are medium hazard fireworks that can be used only outdoors in large open areas. They create high noise level which is not dangerous to human health.
Finally, these fireworks are high hazard fireworks that can be used only by professionals.
How to Use Fireworks Safely
Fireworks may not be as powerful as guns, but they can be quite dangerous when they are not used in the right way. However, there are a few things that every person who wants to use fireworks should take into account if they want to stay perfectly safe. First and foremost, you should buy fireworks only from reputable sellers who are offering fireworks from licensed manufacturers. Low-quality fireworks can lead to accidents.
Next, you should follow the instructions provided by the manufacturer. In addition, you should think about the category of fireworks and the type of fireworks you are using. As previously mentioned, some of them are suitable for outdoor use, others are good only for indoor use, some of them are very loud others create mild noise etc. Of course, you should also follow some general tips on how to use fireworks safely.
One of the most commonly shared tips is the one that points out that children should not play with these items without adequate adult supervision. If any child is involved in the process, you should take special care. Additionally, users should not carry fireworks in their pockets or keep them close to their face. Another good advice is to avoid trying to re-ignite fireworks that could not be fired for some reason. Obviously, those of you planning on using fireworks should aim their fireworks away from flammable items, spectators and guests, and buildings. When the firework is finally lit, you should step away quickly and watch the process from 20 or more feet away. Once again, check the recommendation on the packaging.
Furthermore, fireworks should not be modified and people should not try to make DIY fireworks unless they are experts in this field. Before you lit the firework make sure that your cell phone is close to you and that you have a fire extinguisher.
As you can see, if you are using fireworks as advised and you are following some basic rules, you should stay completely safe. This is a serious issue which is why many countries in the world have created special laws on fireworks.
UK & European Law on Fireworks
Almost every country in the world has specific regulations related to fireworks. This is not a surprise because these devices are used worldwide. For example, there is a special fireworks policy in the EU. The basic objective of this policy is to standardize and harmonize the regulation of production, sale, transportation, use, and safety of fireworks in the European Union. Of course, this is a long process and many EU countries have their specific rules. For instance, in Finland, persons under 18 can’t buy fireworks legally. This is a relatively new regulation introduced in 2009. In order to use fireworks, you have to get permission from the local fire station. People can enjoy firework displays without permission on New Year’s Eve.
The Netherlands has relatively more liberal laws at least when it comes to the age of users. A person above 16 can buy fireworks without any problems. However, fireworks are sold only for three days a year – three days before New Year’s Eve.
The German law on fireworks allows people over 18 to purchase and use fireworks that belong to Category F1 and F2 on December 31st and January 1st. Only professional organizations and company can buy and use fireworks that belong to Category F3 and F4. Another interesting example of regulations of fireworks in an EU-member country is Belgium where every municipality can choose about the limitations related to fireworks. In many municipalities in Belgium, people don’t need a license to light fireworks.
When it comes to the United Kingdom, fireworks have been used for decades, but stricter regulation was introduced in 1997. Starting from 2005 the Fireworks law in the UK has been adjusted with the EU member state’s laws.
Fireworks are used in the UK on a regular basis, but most people use it around Diwali (October or November) and Guy Fawkes Night on November 5th. The safety of firework displays is shared between a few institutions – local authorities, fire brigades and the Health and Safety Executive. At the moment, the United Kingdom doesn’t have a specialized national system that will take care of licensing for fireworks companies. However, if they (the operators) want to buy display fireworks, they must submit proof that they have an explosive storage as well as public liability insurance.
In the United Kingdom, selling fireworks to individuals younger than 18 years is illegal. Even with a permit, fireworks can’t be used between 11 pm and 7 am. Of course, there are a few exceptions to this rule – The Chinese New Year, Bonfire Night, Diwali and New Year.
Another thing that is important about UK laws on fireworks is that the legal Net Explosive Content available to the public is 2 kilos. It’s also worth mentioning that specific kinds of fireworks like Strings of Firecrackers, Jumping Jacks, Shell Firing Tubes, Mini Rockets, and Bangers were banned more than 20 years ago. In the early 2000s, the government has banned Bottle Rockets and Air Bombs too.
In the United Kingdom, the most frequent types of injuries are burns caused by hand-held fireworks like sparklers. This is the reason why there were a few safety campaigns created by the government and other organizations that were trying to increase the awareness of the power of fireworks.
By using high-quality fireworks bought from well-established sellers and by following safety recommendations, users should be able to avoid these accidents.