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Have fun and stay safe at Halloween – Poots & Ford

That was the message from Public Safety Minister Edwin Poots and Justice Minister David Ford urging the public to have fun and stay safe this Halloween.

The Ministers were launching this year’s Fireworks Safety Awareness Campaign which is aimed at informing young people, their parents and organisers of firework displays, on how to prevent injuries caused by fireworks.

Young people from Forthspring Inter-Community Youth Service joined the Ministers at Farset International, where they were presented with a demonstration on the importance of fireworks safety, and reminded that fireworks should only be lit in a safe and controlled environment by a responsible adult. 

The campaign is delivered in partnership between DHSSPS and DOJ working very closely with the Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service (NIFRS), the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI), and the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service (NIAS), to ensure the fireworks safety message is communicated to all who are involved in the organisation of firework displays and to all those participating at this time of year.

Specifically targeting young people between the ages of 11 and 18, the campaign highlights the importance of guidance from parents and adults. The campaign will also run advertisements across television, cinema, radio and social networking sites until the Halloween period is over at the end of October.

To reinforce the firework safety message a drama group will also visit a number of schools throughout the province during October. Schools will receive Firework Safety Information packs, which will be distributed among the young people to take home, ensuring the message reaches family and friends. The Police and Fire & Rescue Officers will also visit schools and deliver safety presentations, emphasising the importance of firework safety. 

Public Safety Minister Edwin Poots said: “As we approach the Halloween holidays we look forward to a family time, full of fun, festivities and fireworks. We want to ensure our loved ones remain safe and out of harm. Fireworks can be extremely dangerous, and we want to prevent injury at all costs. With careful planning and a good level head on the night everyone can have fun, but most importantly stay safe and use fireworks responsibly . 

“I’m delighted to see that the numbers of fireworks related injuries are decreasing but we cannot become complacent. Every one of us has a duty of care to ensure fireworks are handled responsibly to prevent fireworks related injuries to all, particularly children and young people.

“I’d also like to remind people of the traumatic effects that fireworks can have on pets and farm animals, and again appeal to everyone, to stay safe and act responsibly.”

The Justice Minister David Ford highlighted the legal requirement to secure a licence to use fireworks and the importance of buying from a legitimate supplier. 

He said: “I appeal to those using fireworks to do so safely and legally. The messages are straightforward. Purchasers need to obtain a fireworks licence from the Department of Justice and to buy the fireworks from a registered supplier. I do not want to see people breaking the law by buying without a licence or using fireworks that may be unsafe. Of course those using fireworks should also follow the Fireworks Safety Code.”

Assistant Chief Fire Officer, Dale Ashford, NIFRS said: “Our Firefighters are visiting schools across Northern Ireland in the run up to Halloween to remind young people of the danger of fireworks and to always follow the Fireworks Code and the manufacturer’s advice on how to light and use fireworks and sparklers correctly. 

“It’s encouraging that last year, the lowest number of firework related injuries was recorded, however 14 people were still injured and injuries from fireworks can cause serious and sometimes permanent damage. This can be prevented by following basic firework safety advice. 

“Never go near a lit firework, even if it hasn’t gone off, as it could still explode and always let fireworks cool and dispose of them carefully. Never allow small children or pets to go near fireworks. Fireworks are a great Halloween tradition and can be enjoyed safely if people act responsibly and follow the Fireworks Code when lighting and handling fireworks and sparklers.” 

Chief Superintendent Peter Farrar, PSNI said: “We want Halloween to be a safe and enjoyable time for everyone.

“Most people enjoy the festivities at Halloween, however, there are serious consequences associated with the misuse of fireworks. They should always be used in a safe and responsible manner. Anti-social behaviour can cause fear and distress, especially amongst our older people and more vulnerable members of the community.” 

Appealing for parents, youth and community leaders to assist in making this year’s festivities safe and fun. He added: “I would ask everyone to follow the official advice and have a safe and enjoyable Halloween.”

Brian McNeill, Director of Operations with the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service added his support to the campaign: “NIAS Paramedics have witnessed at first hand the life changing injuries that can be caused by fireworks. Injuries that are caused in a moment of carelessness that can never be bought back and can have a debilitating impact that can last forever. We would urge people to follow the Fireworks Code and ensure that an adult is always in charge. Have fun but stay safe!”

Details on using fireworks safely and how to apply for a licence are available from  http://www.nidirect.gov.uk/fireworks. Licence applications should be submitted to the Department of Justice by 23 October 2013.

Notes to editors:

1. Information for members of the public on the law on fireworks and advice on using fireworks safely can also be found at  http://www.nidirect.gov.uk/fireworks 
2. The partnership which produces the Firework Safety Awareness Campaign was established in 2007 and has also received support from ROSPA, Environmental Health Agency, NI Policing Board and NI Ambulance Service. 
3. In 2012, DHSSPS statistics showed 14 people reported to an emergency care department with a firework related injury. This is 11 fewer than in 2011, and the lowest number since the data collection began in 1996. 
4. During the 2012 Halloween period, 10 of the 14 people injured from fireworks were aged under 18, with 5 of those injured aged under 10. Similarly, during each of the last five years the highest numbers of those injured from fireworks and reporting to emergency care departments were aged under 18.
5. Members of the public are encouraged to pass information about the illegal sale and use of fireworks to the PSNI or Crime stoppers on 0800 555 111.

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