Temporary haunted houses must still follow 'life safety code,' says State Fire Marshall

Staff Writer
Aledo Times Record

                     As thousands of families prepare to

                     enjoy Halloween attractions and events, the Office of

                     the Illinois State Fire Marshal (OSFM) is reminding

                     Illinois residents to be vigilant when entering

                     temporary haunted houses.

                     “We want to make sure that families and children are

                     safe and protected when entering haunted houses or

                     other temporary structures constructed for the short

                     Halloween season,” said Illinois Fire Marshal Larry

                     Matkaitis. “It is important for haunted house

                     operators to follow Illinois’ fire and life safety

                     code requirements.”

                     OSFM also calls on local enforcement agencies and

                     haunted house owners and operators to follow safety

                     code guidelines, especially when temporary structures

                     are created by combustible materials such as plywood

                     and cardboard. Those occupancies can present special

                     hazards that make them particularly vulnerable to

                     fires and injuries if applicable codes are not

                     followed.

                     Because of their temporary nature, haunted houses are

                     considered “Special Amusement Buildings” owners must

                     be reminded that haunted house occupancies are not

                     exempt from fire sprinkler systems or fire detection

                     system requirements. Furthermore, haunted houses are

                     usually designed to be dark and offer low visibility

                     to visitors and frequently are set up in maze-like

                     designs that can be confusing to the occupants.

                     According to the Life Safety Code under the National

                     Fire Protection Association (NFPA), the following

                     requirements should be met in haunted houses:

                     • There must be  an adequate number and width of

                     means of egress to accommodate occupant loads within

                     the building

                     • There must be panic hardware on exit doors

                     • There are restrictions on dead-end pathways

                     • Stairway construction must include riser height and

                     tread depth, provision of handrails, and fire rated

                     enclosure in some situations

                     • The use of open flame devices or pyrotechnic

                     special effects is restricted, unless the operator

                     has specific permitting and licensing for the use of

                     indoor pyrotechnics under Illinois law, which

                     prohibits the use of pyrotechnics in buildings that

                     are not protected by an automatic sprinkler system.

                     • Furnishings and decorations including all draperies

                     and curtains are required to be flame resistant.

                     • In accordance with both Life Safety Code

                     requirements and Illinois’ Furniture Fire Safety Act,

                     any upholstered furniture in the occupancy must

                     comply with testing and labeling requirements.

                     For further information regarding the requirements

                     applicable to haunted houses, or any special

                     amusement building, contact the Office of the State

                     Fire Marshal’s Fire Prevention Division Manager Misty

                     Matykiewicz at (217) 558-0639, the Technical Services

                     Division at

                      (312) 814-8960, or visit

                     http://www.sfm.illinois.gov.