Worst night of year

EMERGENCY services and animal welfare organisations across Suffolk are braced for tonight's festivities.Gunpowder, treason and plot may be the prime concern of hundreds of revellers across the county but crime, fire and safety should not be ignored.

EMERGENCY services and animal welfare organisations across Suffolk are braced for tonight's festivities.

Gunpowder, treason and plot may be the prime concern of hundreds of revellers across the county but crime, fire and safety should not be ignored.

And today the government announced a new crackdown on firework crime – banning under-18s from buying or carrying fireworks and introducing new penalties for their misuse, including throwing them.

Trade and industry secretary Patricia Hewitt announced that the new laws would be in place before Christmas.

Research shows that bonfire night is the worst date in the year for house break-ins while ambulance call outs rise significantly over the period surrounding Guy Fawke's night.

Animal welfare organisations can also be inundated with calls as loud bangs cause distress to animals and others suffer burns caused by bonfires.

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Services across the county have offered advise to those attending organised and private events – namely to exercise caution and to protect one's self, animals and property.

To crackdown on the criminals, Suffolk police is today urging people to ensure they lock up their properties.

A spokeswoman for the force said: "Thieves may take advantage of public celebrations, when a large number of people are enjoying a night out, to target empty properties. Make sure your property is secure with all doors and windows locked before you leave home.

"Burglars love to work under the cover of darkness and homes are less likely to be targeted if they're well lit. Security lights outside and lights left on inside give the impression that a house is occupied and will deter a thief."

Today's warning comes after insurer Norwich Union revealed it receives 25 per cent more claims for home thefts on Guy Fawkes' night than on any other day.

And as people try their hand at amateur firework displays, fire-related claims also shoot up 50pc.

On Saturday, Suffolk fire service was called out to two unattended bonfires.

And the fire service is not alone in its concerns, the East Anglian Ambulance Trust received nearly five hundred 999 calls on Saturday which is higher than a usual weekend.

Spokesman for the trust, Matthew Ware said: "We had 322 calls last November 5, that's not loads and it's lower than most weekend call outs but one firework related call out is too many. Private displays are dangerous and should be avoided."

Although there were no firework related casualties in Ipswich last year, hospitals will be on stand-by to receive casualties and the advice from the hospital is to remain vigilant.

Jan Rousall, spokeswoman for Ipswich Hospital said: "The figures last year were promising and it is good news that people are responding to safety messages but for us, one casualty is too many.

"The hospital is always prepared for every type of emergency but the message from us is to keep safe. Burns are terrible injuries that cause pain and suffering and we hope that there are no injuries this year.

"People need to follow advice from safety campaigns and event organisers."

Physical injuries to animals in the region are also rare but the emotional upset caused by loud fireworks can create problems and animals have been known to disappear after loud explosions.

The RSPCA centre in Woodbridge has not been affected by such bangs because of its quiet location but assistant manager, Graham Marwood believes that the regional centre in Peterborough will receive a substantial number of calls.

He said: "It is not particularly busy here but the regional centre is likely to be inundated with calls.

"We have had the odd cat injured in bonfires in the past but that is rare."

"I used to be an RSPCA inspector and calls were always up at this time of year.

"It is particularly bad in rural areas where people set of fireworks near farm animals."

And the Blue Cross Centre in Felixstowe offered advise to those with domestic animals.

Dog Behaviour Advisor, Clare Williamson said: "Pets should be kept inside after dark.

"It is a good idea to prepare a den as a hideaway for pets and to leave them if they want to hide."

The advice from organisations across Suffolk is clear – whatever you are doing tonight, be safe and follow the Firework code.

The Department for Trade and Industry Firework Code is as follows -

Buy fireworks marked BS 7114

Keep fireworks in a closed box

Follow the instructions on each firework

Light them at arms length using a taper

Stand well back

Never go back to a lit firework

Never put fireworks in your pocket

Never throw fireworks

Light sparklers one at a time and wear gloves

Never give sparklers to a child under five

Keep pets indoors