Bright sparks take cover against damp squibs and disaster: Care and the right insurance can protect your fireworks display from accidents - and weather. Lee Rodwell reports

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The Independent Online
Hallowe'en has yet to erase the traditional Bonfire Night celebration from the autumn calendar, and although the trend in recent years has been for organised displays rather than back-garden gatherings, the family fireworks party is far from extinct.

But who pays if something goes wrong - if a rogue rocket injures a watching child or the bonfire burns not only the Guy but the garden shed?

People having firework parties at home are likely to be covered by their household insurance policies, but they should check.

Aileen Kimber, of the Association of British Insurers, said: 'Most buildings policies will cover sheds and fences, most contents policies will cover what's inside sheds. Clearly, if you build a 10ft high bonfire in a 10ft square garden you wouldn't stand much chance of making a successful claim.

'But providing you could show that you took reasonable precautions - siting the bonfire well away from anything likely to catch fire, for instance - you would be covered if anything did go wrong. And if it was your neighbour's fence which went up in flames the only way they could claim against you would be to prove you had been negligent. That's why we always stress the importance of following the firework code.

'Similarly, if someone was injured, they would have to prove you had been negligent in order to make a claim. Most contents policies have a personal liability section, but if you have done everything anyone could reasonably expect - keeping people well away from the bonfire, keeping fireworks in a box, only allowing one or two responsible adults to light fireworks and so on - then it would be hard to prove negligence.'

Holding a small fireworks party at home is one thing, but what if you are organising Bonfire Night celebrations on behalf of the PTA or a village committee?

'You can't automatically assume that a club or a school has a liability policy,' said Ms Kimber, 'or it may be that the one they have only applies during certain hours. If the event is taking place in the evening or at a weekend then it may need extending. It's usually easier to extend an existing policy than set up a new one.'

This year the most burning issue for Bonfire Night organisers is likely to be the wet weather. However, there is still just enough time to insure against the event being a total wash-out by taking out a Pluvius policy.

John Lear, Pluvius underwriter at Eagle Star, said: 'Fireworks displays - like many outdoor events are vulnerable to the vagaries of the weather. For most people the crucial hours are the three before the event is due to start. That's when people are making up their mind whether to go or not.

'So our policy pays out if the rainfall during the agreed three hours is greater than a specified amount. The measuring is usually done by the Meteorological Office or the local water authority but occasionally we will lend a rain gauge to a trustworthy independent local like the vicar or a school head, and get him to do the readings on site.'

Premiums are calculated on the basis of average rainfall expectancy for the area concerned, using Met Office statistics. To insure a sum of pounds 2,000 for a firework display on or around 5 November would cost pounds 185 in London, pounds 215 in Manchester and pounds 235 in Glasgow. The minimum premium is pounds 100 and to get cover for this year, all paperwork must be done by 22 October.

Is it worth bothering? Mr Lear said: 'We've always covered a lot of firework displays run by PTAs, village committees and organisations like Round Table and Rotary clubs. Often it's their major fund-raising event of the year. If it's a really awful night and you were expecting 2,000 but only 500 turn up it can be a disaster. But we can help ensure that a total wash-out need not mean a total loss.'

For more information about Pluvius insurance contact John Lear at Eagle Star on 0242 221311 ext 28120.

(Photograph omitted)

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