Insurance cover is essential If you are planning to have a Bonfire Night fireworks party or public event. Accidents can happen in the best-organised event, and the consequences of being under-insured can be tragic in both human and financial terms.
If your fireworks celebration is a private party in your own home then your general household insurance would normally provide adequate cover or can be upgraded to do so. Check the policy and if in doubt consult your broker or insurance company. Remember though that there will almost certainly be a ‘duty of care’ clause putting the onus on you to take reasonable safety precautions.
Public Fireworks Display
It is when the event is open to the public and/or is paid-for that insurance becomes more complex. This is partly because risks increase as the event becomes bigger but also because there is a greater duty of care on the organizer (who may be regarded as an expert, in legal terms). There is also an increased expectation of compensation from an injured party.
Small-scale, organised but informal parties probably have the biggest problem with securing adequate cover at an affordable price – but it needn’t be the case. Adequate forward planning is the key.
If you are involved with a regular, properly constituted community or social organisation then you should already have an insurance policy in place. This will cover your activities – summer outings, Christmas parties etc – for the usual risks: public liability, personal accident and similar. A reputable insurance company will usually include your fireworks party in with this cover, but here is the key: don’t wait until the last minute!! Anticipate that fireworks might be one of your activities and make sure that it is included in your policy, an ideal time to review cover is at renewal time. Failing that, ask your broker or insurer in plenty of time to add the firework activity to your policy. Providing your fireworks party is properly organised and follows Health & Safety Executive guidelines there should not be a problem. It is easier for insurance companies to say ‘no’ when they are approached too late for them to assess the risk.
On a larger event, the insurance question becomes more complex. If there is any sort of claim made, then insurance companies, or the courts, will seek to apportion responsibility and therefore the liability. You should consider all of the following:
- Public Liability. This is the main area of risk and your primary responsibility as an organizer.
- Funfair rides or amusements. Likewise, check the policy of all fairground rides. Members of the Showman’s Guild will always have public liability insurance in place. Be especially cautious of small-time operators of bouncy castles and similar.
- Fireworks. If you are contracting with a display company they should have their own public liability policy in force, but take special note; this covers THEIR liability, NOT yours.
If you are buying the fireworks and firing them yourself then you must have specific cover for this.
- Catering. Similarly, contract caterers should have their own policy. Check it. If you are providing catering with your own staff/volunteers then the liability will be yours. If you can, use a member of a catering trade organisation.
“Insurance costs need not be prohibitive with proper forward planning”
Planning ahead also takes care of one of the other insurance problems – that of cost. Insurance cover is not cheap but it can be prohibitive if it is not costed in from the first stage of planning. When it is included as an afterthought, the cost is likely to kill an event. If it is included from the outset as an expense – along with fireworks, advertising etc – an event can still be financially successful; and a successful event is a safe and enjoyable way to enjoy fireworks.
Becky Hadley, of AA Insurance Services, said: “Be especially careful if you are going out to displays or friends’ bonfire parties. Most people consider the fire risks when going to or hosting parties, but with the dark nights drawing in and the distractions of noise, Bonfire Night can be a great one for burglars.
“Fireworks can easily disguise the noise of windows being broken or of doors being wrenched, and the sound of barking dogs, for example, is more likely to be overlooked. Make sure your home is properly secured when you go out.”