As the days get longer and warmer, people tend to gather outdoors. Events held outdoors for holidays and festivals may wish to implement pyrotechnics and fireworks with the festivities. When considering fireworks or pyrotechnics outdoors, the safety concerns you need to address for indoor use of pyrotechnics also apply, including insurance and liability issues and all safety issues, including crowd control.
Outdoor events create their own challenges to be overcome. The following items are points to think about when planning outdoor events with a specific interest in pyrotechnics and fireworks.
Any presentation to the public involving pyrotechnics or fireworks must be permitted by the fire marshal, and you may need permits from other entities within your local government to have an outdoor event. This applies even if you are using fireworks which are legal for use by the general public. See points below.
Your fire marshal is a resource to help find qualified people or companies in your area to provide pyrotechnic or firework services who possess the needed licenses, permits, and insurance.
Be aware that large aerial ‘display’ fireworks shows known as 1.3 or ‘Class B’ shows must be setup, supervised, and set off by federally licensed fireworks operators. These fireworks require a very large safety distance which may be available to a majority of metropolitan congregations. The permitting required for these shows may be very extensive, and may require road closures, land owner permissions and releases, regatta permits, and other requirements and restrictions as imposed by the local authorities.
A note on aerial display show budgets: The rule of thumb is at least $1000.00 for each minute of the show. Your mileage may vary. There are shows which cost over $10,000.00 a minute, and other shows which only cost $500.00 a minute. Remember, the longer you want the show to last, the fewer number of shells will be fired during each minute of the show. Most display firework companies will not consider a show with less than $1000.00 in the budget, but it never hurts to ask
When contracting with a display fireworks company, have your main date, and several alternate dates ready when you book the show. Also have an alternate show date for rescheduling in the event of rain. Shooters are often booked a year in advance for the July 4th weekend, and may not have time to get another crew put together to also do your show the first year. Be flexible, or be prepared to not have fireworks. Once you have booked with a company , they will often be much more willing to work with a repeat customer. You may also get a price break by signing a multi-year contract.
If you have an alternate location to hold the event in the event of rain, you must include the alternate location in your permit application packet. You must list any alternate DATE for the event in the event of rain as well.
If you are planning on using Consumer Fireworks for a presentation, the fire marshal must still be informed. Remember, this is a PUBLIC event if given by the church and on church grounds, especially if there have been general public invitations issued. Be sure everyone involved with setting up such a show has the overall plan in mind, and works with each other on what is being fired when. Provide personal protective equipment, and put someone in charge to make sure everyone is keeping their personal protective equipment in place.
Consumer Fireworks are NOT the same as Proximate Pyrotechnics. Proximate pyrotechnics have been specifically engineered to perform in a particular manner, and to consistently perform safely. NEVER use Consumer Fireworks indoors. Consumer Fireworks may not perform consistently, and should be used for public displays with extreme caution. Read all caution labels and directions on ALL fireworks and pyrotechnics before use.
You may use proximate pyrotechnics outdoors or indoors. In fact, there are many effects made for use during halftime shows for football games and other events in open air venues which are proximate pyrotechnics.
When using ‘festival balls’ or reloadable shells, use common sense about wind direction, where fallout will land, if there are trees around, and other safety concerns- such as securing your firing tubes to a larger base, firing slightly into the wind, not with the wind, and be prepared with fire extinguishers. Keep the audience a reasonable distance from the firing area. Examine your shooting area for combustible materials, and be prepared to remove or otherwise protect the materials from fire.
When planning on using pyrotechnics outdoors, you must take weather into account.
Wind can have a very adverse affect on pyrotechnics. Sparks and stars from effects may be carried by wind further than the required safety distances. WHEN IN DOUBT, DO NOT FIRE THE EFFECT. It can be useful to have streamers on an upright structure as a wind indicator for both the pyrotechnician and other participants.
Rain and damp can damage both effects and equipment. Firing equipment can short out in the presence of moisture, especially systems normally used indoors. If possible, keep cables out of puddles, protect connections as you can, and again, WHEN IN DOUBT, DO NOT FIRE THE EFFECT. Be ready to disconnect from your power source in the presence of lightning. The best choice is to decide to hold off on the pyro and completely shut down AND UNPLUG the firing system until the chance of disruption is past. Even power strips with surge protectors may not be able to withstand electrical anomalies. A damaged firing system should not be used, and especially, not plugged back in, until the entire firing area has been cleared. There have been instances of power being applied to a firing system, and everything being fired upon that electrical contact.
Be prepared with alternate lighting sources (flashlights) in the event electrical power is lost. Clear the area around unfired effects until either the event continues as planned or everyone leaves the area so you can safely remove your effects and equipment.
Fireworks and pyrotechnics can be marginally waterproofed by covering with plastic wrap. Consumer fireworks ‘cake’ effects can be covered with foil as well. Carefully consider what effect you are covering before using foil as well as plastic wrap. If there is too much of a barrier, items will not go as high as intended. Most proximate pyrotechnics should only be covered with plastic.
Be aware that rain and dew are not your only sources of moisture with an outdoor event. Dripping drink coolers, vendors waste water, leaking trash cans or other sources of moisture need to be kept from controls, cables, connections, and effects. Also be aware of where lighting and sound cables have been run, and alert other departments if there is a potential problem. Snow and ice in winter cause their own havoc.
Be prepared with sunscreen, bug spray, water, sports drinks, snacks, and protective clothing when involved in any outdoor event. Dress for the weather, and it never hurts to have clothing along that wasn’t called for in the forecast. Don’t forget hats as sunshades in the summer, and a white or other light colored loose long sleeved shirt reflects a lot of sun away from the body, and saves your upper torso from sunburn. Again, winter creates other outdoor issues, where naturally lower humidity and synthetic clothing can create increased static electricity hazards.
Do not remove personal protective equipment until you have left the immediate area of effects. Safety glasses must remain on your face for them to do any good. Long pants, long sleeves, and closed toe shoes should be worn while installing your pyrotechnic effects.
Plan for your setup to take longer than normal with hot and cold conditions, as frequent rest breaks are necessary to either warm up or cool down. Heavy winds may also delay setup. Plan accordingly for your area.
These are some of the concerns which need to be addressed when considering fireworks and pyrotechnics for outdoor events. This is by no means all inclusive, and does not constitute any sort of training. Use these points to help you plan a safe and successful celebration. Have a safe and happy summer!