Bonfire night is fast approaching and with it the biggest home insurance risk of the year.
Bonfire night results in the highest number of home insurance claims of any night of the year and the risk extends to cars and personal injury as well as buildings and contents home insurance.
If you are hosting a bonfire party then you need to be aware of the personal liability insurance risks and rules as well.
In this guide we will outline how you can reduce the risks to your property and your person and the people you are with as you celebrate Bonfire Night.
I can say that I am a fairly good guide to this subject as I live near Lewes, East Sussex, which has the biggest and oldest set of Bonfire Night celebrations in the UK and having attended at least 20 times in the past 30 years and seen and heard all sorts of stories as to the potential dangers of Bonfire Night, I can tell you that the risk certainly exists.
There are always a small percentage of homes that get damaged by fireworks and research shows that the risk of burglary to the home or vehicle increases by around 25 per cent on November 5th.
November traditionally has the second highest number of claims for fire damage, only beaten by December when the UK collectively attempts to wire up Christmas lights.
Parties and celebrations
If you are planning to host a fireworks party at home, you need to consider the risk of injury or damage to your guests and make sure you are covered. Over 6,000 people are injured and treated for firework accidents each year, with half of these injuries happening to children under the age of 16.
You need to check that your home insurance policy is up to date and that you have adequate personal liability cover for yourself, your home and the people who attend the event. If someone was injured, you could be liable for any injury or damage if you are not covered by insurance.
Read the small print
Before you organize the firework party, it is vital you read the small print of your home insurance cover and make sure you have sufficient personal liability protection.
Most buildings and contents insurance policies will provide sufficient cover if your property or possessions are damaged by a bonfire or firework.
However, make sure your home insurance policy also covers garden equipment, furniture and other valuables. Sheds, fences and greenhouses are usually covered by buildings policies but other contents in your garden may not be covered.
Protecting your home
The risk of burglary increases on November 5th. If you are going out for the evening, close the curtains but leave a few lights on so that it looks as if someone is at home.
Make sure all doors, windows and outbuildings have been locked. If your home is fitted with a burglar alarm, make sure you switch it on before you go out. Test your smoke alarm to ensure it is working.
Protecting your family
If you are hosting a fireworks party, nominate a responsible, non-drinking parent, preferably yourself if it is on your property, to be in charge of lighting the fireworks. Keep fireworks sealed in a container and away from children.
There are no laws against having a bonfire on your property but it makes sense to keep it away from sheds, hedges and other things that may catch fire.
Let your neighbours know in advance, or better still, invite them. They are much less likely to complain.
Last year a Mr Metcalf had a bonfire in his garden last year. Despite taking all the necessary precautions and building the fire 30 metres away from his house an ember from the fire was blown into his dog kennel. Unfortunately the kennel was attached to an out building in which a number of goods that he collected for charity events were kept.
Mr Metcalf noticed immediately and was able to extinguish the flames with a fire extinguisher but a significant amount of damage had already been done to the outbuilding and to the contents in it. Fortunately no one was harmed in this fire but it was a shock to Mr Metcalf how quickly the fire took hold and how much worse the damage could have been if he hadn’t been able to control it.
Selwyn Fernandes, Managing Director of LV= home insurance, said: “Whether you are having a bonfire to get rid of garden waste of just for fun it’s important to think about the dangers involved when lighting a bonfire. Fire spreads quickly and so positioning your bonfire away from any buildings or trees is essential.”
If you are out at a fireworks display or bonfire keep an eye on the people you are with, especially children. At some bigger processions the streets can become very crowded and it is easy to lose someone. Watch out for stray lit torches and fireworks that are left on the street. If you are watching a bonfire, don’t get too close.
Protecting your garden and car
Put valuable garden ornaments or plant pots inside a locked shed or other outbuilding. If you have a gate to your garden, make sure you lock it before you go out. If possible put your car away in a locked garage or on the drive. If that is not possible consider parking away from the main street. Always lock your car and set the alarm if you have one.
Safety tips for handling fireworks
Always read the instructions carefully and never return to a firework after it has been lit. There are a lot of inferior products around. To make sure you get fireworks that conform to safety standards only buy fireworks marked with the British Standard Kitemark BS 7114. This also means that the fireworks are likely to be of a better standard than the fake ones that are available.
Never use petrol to help get your bonfire going and make sure you build the bonfire in a space away from any buildings, fences or hedges. You should also try and make sure that no fireworks are thrown onto the bonfire.
Bonfire night and pets
Make sure your pet is worn out by exercising it on the day. This will help it get to sleep easier.
Close the curtains and try and create a natural den, a place that an animal would make for if it was scared.
Dr Scott Miller from Tesco Pet Insurance said: “We have noticed a clear spike in owners seeking advice before bonfire night, as well as in the incidence of stress-related injuries in the days after. Noise phobia in animals can worsen from year to year so it is especially important that pet owners do all they can to help support their animals through the bonfire night period.”