I received an email from the US embassy today. This is nothing special as I’m voluntarily on their mailing list. Usually I receive information about protests in the area and similar.
It must be that time of the year, because I received an email about fireworks safety today… Most of it would be useful information to the craziness that is that is Dutch fireworks culture, but some of it is amusing:
The Netherlands is known for its extensive use of fireworks in celebrating New Year’s Eve. Officially, fireworks can be lit between 1000 on Tuesday, December 31, 2013, to 0200 on Wednesday, January 1, 2014. The legal sale of fireworks (for those aged 16 years and older) starts on the morning of Friday, December 27, 2013. For those unfamiliar with this celebration, it can be quite distressing for young children and pets. Or adults, depending on where you go!
What will the police do to prevent these problems?
The Dutch police have zero tolerance for people using fireworks before or after the permitted times/dates. (In actuality fireworks will start going off a day or two before its legal.) Illegally purchased/ stored fireworks and all remaining fireworks in possession will be seized from any individuals or groups if caught before that date. Anyone under the age of 16 found possessing fireworks may be sent to HALT, the Dutch juvenile reform bureau, for mandatory awareness training.
Some trends you should be aware during the permitted firework time:
1. Groups throw fireworks indiscriminately on the street and in gardens. Quite true. You really have to be aware of your surroundings (perhaps this isn’t a big deal everywhere).
2. Fireworks are tossed fireworks in mailboxes, dumpsters, and garbage containers; causing damage to the owner’s property. I can see that, yes.
3. Fireworks are thrown at pedestrians, bicyclists, cars, and pets, and in mail slots. I’m not quite sure that it happens that often, but you do have some evil spirited folks out there.
4. Fireworks may be launched from holes in street manhole covers. At first I read this and thought they meant that people go into the manhole covers and wait for people to come by, and then jump out and throw fireworks at them…
5. Stacking and setting fire to old Christmas trees at various (designated) locations on public streets. Generally the rule is that Christmas trees don’t get put out until a few days after New Year’s, for just this reason…
6. Possibility of increased criminal activity over New Year’s Eve, especially in areas frequented by large crowds.
When could problems occur?
In particular, right before and after New Year’s Eve; right after the sale of fireworks begins, and at locations where young people gather. Normally this is from dusk until after midnight.
What can you do to improve your safety?
Adults should always directly supervise children who are handling fireworks. Be alert and extremely cautious of fireworks lit in your direct vicinity. Beware of unexploded fireworks lying on the ground – consider such items as “live.” When lighting fireworks, remember they can explode sooner than expected, and can follow a different route than planned. Avoid wearing nylon or other flammable clothing and always use eye protection. Never keep lit fireworks in hands or pockets. In case of injury, call 112, or go immediately to the nearest hospital.
What can you do to prevent or minimize problems, damage or loss?
Inform your children that the police will inevitably be called in regarding any dealings involving illegal fireworks; i.e., possessing (illegal) fireworks or lighting fireworks before 1000 on Dec 31. Keep your windows, including transom windows closed and garbage containers out of reach. Empty your outside mailbox and if removable, bring the mailbox inside as soon as mail has been delivered. If you have a mail opening in your door, close it with wood or hard plastic (using screws or tape). Use your external light fixtures to illuminate your garden, and set timers to illuminate the interior of your unoccupied premises. Call 112 if you observe or hear people causing dangerous situations by throwing fireworks in your vicinity.
Really, the biggest thing is paying attention to your surroundings and what the people (including strangers) around you are doing. One time Marco and I walked a bit closer to a bonfire in the middle of the street. We saw someone throw something into the fire and we instantly bolted about 10 feet away. (It turned out to be nothing, but better safe than sorry. It really can get insane at times!)