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How To Select a Display Company

With several similar proposals in front of you, how do you choose the one company that will shoot your display?

When you receive proposals from display companies, look at these items:

Experience in producing the type of show you want
If you're looking for a computer-fired, choreographed display, ask about shows of similar size and duration the company has done in the past. Find out if the company has video footage of these shows available on VHS or DVD. As with other services, consider asking your contact for references to satisfied customers.

Site visits
In order to plan a safe display best suited to your location, a company should visit your site before the show to view the lay of the land and measure distances between the show set-up area and the crowd line.

Insurance coverage

The company should offer liability insurance that covers both the company and the sponsor as an additionally named insured.

Training and certification of display operators

Ask if the crew members who will shoot your show have undergone any formal training in the proper handling of display fireworks. The Pyrotechnics Guild International offers the only nationally-recognized display operator training course. "PGI Certified" display operators are experienced in all phases of professional display production and pyrotechnic safety. In addition, the crew members who will transport your fireworks should hold a commercial driver's license with a hazardous materials endorsement.

Proper transportation of your fireworks display
All reputable fireworks companies comply with Department of Transportation rules. However, some smaller companies have been known to try to get away with not complying with DOT requirements, and are driving your display on public roads without insurance or the warning diamonds (placards) that keep emergency personnel safe in the event of a traffic accident. Trying to sneak around puts both you and your display at great risk, and makes one wonder what other safety rules they are disregarding. All reputable operators will comply with the transportation regulations by display their company name, USDOT number and orange warning diamonds (placards) on the truck that carries the fireworks.

Commitment to following the safety guidelines of NFPA 1123 Code 1123 of the National Fire Protection Association sets the standard for display fireworks safety. Companies that adhere to NFPA 1123 are following high standards for ensuring the safety of you and your audience.

Comparing Proposals

Types of devices
Aerial shells (devices that explode in the air) are what most people associate with fireworks displays. Other devices include mines, comets, and Roman candles. Aerial shells may be individual items, ranging in size from 3 to 12 inches and loaded into separate firing mortars. Aerial devices may also be together in a "multi-shot cake," a collection of cardboard tubes pre-loaded with shells and lit with a single fuse.

Method of firing
Fireworks devices may be hand fired with flares by display operators, electrically fired with special wiring systems, or a combination of the two. Hand-firing is less expensive than electric firing and requires less set-up time. Electric firing offers more safety for the display operators. Computer choreographed displays require electric firing.

Shell count
Each proposal may include the total number of pyrotechnic devices to be used in the show. This is commonly referred to as a shell count. Be aware that a large quantity of shells does not guarantee a quality show. A proposal with a high shell count may contain many mediocre effects or poor quality construction. A company emphasizing their high shell count is not likely to be providing high quality shells. For the same price, you could get fewer but far more beautiful shells--which translate into more "ooo"s and "aahh"s from your audience.