Flying sky lanterns or Chinese lanterns, are growing in popularity in Scotland and England. Regularly used at parties, they ’re a good option instead of fireworks to light the sky at night. But even though these lanterns can look pretty, are they safe for the use of children?
What’s a Chinese Sky Lantern?
They have been used as parts of celebrations for many thousands of years and as the name implies, Chinese lanterns originated in China. A Chinese sky lantern is a type of light which is usually constructed from paper which is wrapped around a bamboo frame. With this there is fuel or sometimes a candle in the lantern which is can be lit before the lantern is released and floats into the sky.
These sky lanterns are usually available in a variety of sizes and shapes, from little to big, and can fly between 10-20 minutes in the air. Flying lanterns that are lit in many cases are used at celebrations for example Bonfire night, marriages, birthdays, anniversaries and other special events,. These can create a significant scene when they’re released.
Chinese Lantern Safety
Lanterns floating in the sky at night can look enchanting to those down below but there are a few issues of safety to consider.
To begin with, using Chinese lanterns that have been lit has triggered quite a few false emergency service incidents in the UK, thus wasting the time of the services and costing taxpayers money. This is because, the lanterns can seem like flares launched in an emergency, which has caused some members of the public to call the emergency services or the coastguard to think that people are in an emergency situation, when they’re in the skies. It was even a coastguard who mistook heavens lanterns and raised the alarm, in one incident.
There is also another concern that once a lantern is in the air, there is control as to where it goes and you never know where a sky lantern will land. This is less of a concern as the lanterns generally burn out and are not lit when they land.
Lanterns are made from fire retardant paper but he exterior can sometimes catch fire very easily if not handled properly, putting children in risk.
There have been a few cases where lanterns have landed in farmland and started fires in marquees or fields of crops. Concern has been expressed over the issue of skies lanterns landing on farmland and are worried that their machinery could be damaged by the wire as well as get into feed for animals.
Key Safety Points To Remember
Even though there are calls from campaign groups to prohibit the usage of sky lanterns, they used and are still being sold broadly, and rightly so. Below are some practical guidelines on safety to bear in mind when using lanterns to help ensure children and adults are kept safe.
- Consider where you select to release your lanterns and make sure that you’re not close to the coast or anywhere where the light in the sky could get mistaken for a flare.
- If possible, inform the emergency services in advance if you’re letting a large number off simultaneously at a big event or party.
- Check the wind and do not release lanterns in wind where the speed if higher than 5mph.
- Make sure that only grownups ignite and release lanterns keeping children well out of the way.
- In case a lantern goes wrong, ensure you’ve plenty of water prepared.
- Release lanterns close to buildings or thatched roofs, woodland or farmland.
- Release lanterns off near motorways, major roads or airports.
- As there is a risk that they could land and set fire to something, don;t release lanterns in extremely dry weather.
- Do not use lanterns if under the influence of drugs or drink.