Canadian Halloween: Haunt Safe

 

Canadian Haunters Association


Canadian Halloween Fire and Safety Code Guidelines For Commercial and Fundraising Halloween Attractions & Haunted Houses.

 

The information on this Page is A MUST READ for anyone planning, designing, building, and decorating a Haunted House, Labyrinth, or any kind Halloween display where the public will have access to.

You NEED TO KNOW that all public halls or other rooms or buildings used, wholly or in part, for theatrical or other entertainment or exhibits of any nature or in which people assemble for dancing or for other social or recreational purposes is subject to inspection at any and all times by the Fire Chief, Chief of Police, or their representatives... So you better have your Haunt in order or you can and will most likely be SHUT DOWN!!

 

Most city building inspectors along with fire inspectors reference, in addition to municipal and provincial building (1998 BC Building Code) and fire codes, the NFPA 1, Fire Prevention Code, 2000 edition and the NFPA 101, Life Safety code, 2000 edition.

There is a lot of information on this page but it is well worth the time it takes to read it.

Fire and Safety Code Guidelines For Commercial and Fundraising Haunted Houses

The following is a compilation of suggestions and recommendations that best describe the process of planning a successful and safe Halloween Attraction.

Useful Links:


NFPA (National Fire Protection Association)

BC Building Policy Branch

 

Scope:

Fire and Building Code regulations shall apply to temporary Haunted Houses, Ghost Walks, or similar amusement buildings where decorative material and confusing sounds and/or visual effects are present.

arrow Definitions:

Haunted House: A temporary or permanent building or structure, or portion thereof, which contains a system that transports passengers or provides a walkway through a course so arranged that the means of egress are not apparent due to theatrical distractions, not visible due to low illumination, are disguised or are not readily available to the method of transportation through the building or structure.

Ghost Walks: Similar to a Haunted House and may include both indoor and outdoor areas where egress to a public way is similarly not readily identifiable.


arrow Permits

TIP: Establish a relationship with your city early in the process so they know ahead of time what your plans are. Explain your goals and point out that both of you have the same goals; to provide a safe and fun activity for the community. Use their knowledge and expertise to help you solve any issues or concerns you have.

A permit application should be submitted in the form of a Permit Application Packet no later than two (2) weeks prior to the event but starting 6 months before the event is recommended in order to navigate the inevitable bureaucracies. An inspection is usually required for approval prior to operation. Additional permits may be required from the local Planning and/or Building Departments. Those agencies should be contacted for requirements.

Note: Interpretation of Buildings Codes is at the discretion of the appropriate city officials and Building permits are definitely required if the attraction is designated a "Building" but if your attraction can be declared as a "Display", it will not require a building permit.

Special considerations may also be applied to "Temporary Occupancies"

arrow Permit Application Packet

Permit Application Packet should include the following:
- A Dimensioned site plan shall indicate proximity of the event building(s) to other structures or hazardous areas, and path of travel from event building or area to the public way.
- A floor plan showing the following:
:Dimensions (total square footage, width of exits, aisles or interior exit pathways, etc.)
:Location of exits, exit signs, and emergency lighting units
:Location of fire extinguishers
:Location of electrical panel(s) and light switches
:Location of smoke detectors and/or fire alarm panel
:Normal use of any structure(s) (i.e.: auditorium, school, church, etc.)
:Staff positions.
:A written emergency procedure (see "Emergency Planning" section below).

Some Municipalities may require Certification from a Certified Registered Professional
of conformance to the BC Building Code

arrow Getting Approval

The process of securing approval for your attraction will require you to communicate your intentions with the following individuals:

City Council / City Manager
Permission to operate a temporary business and to establish Building code requirements

Zoning Board
Zoning exception to use land for purpose not zoned for which may take 1-2 months from variance submittal until you can get on zoning board agenda

Fire Marshall
Your attraction will HAVE to meet city fire/safety/building codes, including handicap accessibility.

The Fire Marshall can shut down an event at any time if they feel the building does not meet code or is unsafe

Police Chief
Discuss any safety issues such traffic, parking, pedestrian movement, security requirements. You should have parking attendant(s) for traffic control

Insurance Broker
You must have, in addition to any existing policies, liability insurance for your attraction, usually 5 to 10 million dollars but can be more depending on the type of attraction and length and hour of operation. A representative for the insurance company will do a walk-through inspection and will look for Public Safety issues such as trip hazards, egress route obstructions, aisle widths, emergency exits, exposed nails and screws, and many other potential risks. Your attraction will have to be close to completion and the inspection process may take several hours.

The project manager, property owner, and the Emergency Planner should be in attendance.


arrow Emergency Planning

- Maximum occupant load (which shall include staff) shall be determined during plan review. A sign stating maximum occupant capacity shall be posted in a visible location near the entrance, and staff shall control the flow of patrons so as not to exceed this limit.

  • A written emergency procedure plan shall be provided with a Permit Application Packet.
  • The emergency procedure plan shall include training of staff and familiarization with fire alarm tone. Specific personnel shall be designated to turn off all distracting noises (i.e.: sound system) and turn on lights when alerted by either fire alarm or otherwise notified of an emergency condition.
  • The event shall be adequately staffed to control the occupant load and assist patrons in exiting should an evacuation become necessary. Staffing level shall be determined upon review of plans and may be increased at the discretion of the Fire Department.
  • All employees shall carry flashlights and know the location of all exits, fire extinguishers, light switches, electrical panels, and emergency phones.
  • A fire drill demonstrating the implementation of the emergency plan may be required at the time of inspection.
  • Establish and maintain a first aid station
  • Phone communication must be readily available for the purpose of calling 911 in the event of an emergency.

 

arrowPublic Safety & Security

It is important that you have a qualified and adequately trained and equipped security and emergency response team in position at your attraction. This includes Security, Fire Watch, and First Aid Responders. This team must be familiar with the Emergency Planning procedures and the physical layout of the attraction. They must also know how to professionally respond to a variety of situations that may include mischievousness, rowdiness, intoxication, violence, vandalism, panic, medical situations, and emergency evacuations.

 

  • Post a very obvious, clearly marked sign stating the "Safety Rules"
    (See Safety Rules below)
  • Have a staging area where the rules are read to the customers prior to entering
  • Have a "spotter" in the staging area looking for signs of potential trouble such as drunks
  • Hire certified Security Guards
  • Hire additional staff to perform "Fire Watch" duties
  • Have certified First Aid attendants on site at all times
  • Security Personnel must look the part and be physically fit
  • Security Personnel should wear highly visible vests or uniforms clearly marked "Security"
  • Submit a request for volunteer Fire Fighter and off duty Police Officers participation
  • Have all safety and operational personnel on wireless headsets
  • At least one safety and operational personnel should be equipped with a cell phone
  • Make sure that all workers know the locations of the exits & Fire Extinguishers
  • Safety issues must be covered every night before the performance to insure
    both the customers and the volunteers have a safe and entertaining show
  • - Make sure you provide "Scare Training" techniques for the actors (See Scare Training below)


arrow Exits & Pathways

  • Exits must be spaced in accordance to Fire and Building Codes
  • Any exit doors must swing in the direction of egress.
  • Exits must be identified by approved self-luminous or electrically illuminated exit signs.
  • Under NO CIRCUMSTANCES can an exit be part of a mirrored wall
  • Any doorway or passageway that is not an exit or a way to reach an exit, but
    could be mistaken as an exit, must be clearly identified with a "NO EXIT" sign
  • Exit doors should not be provided with a latch or lock unless it is specifically
    designed "panic hardware".
  • Emergency lighting must be provided in exit pathways.
  • Exit pathways and aisles must be a minimum 36" wide
  • Exhibits and decorative materials must not obstruct, confuse, or obscure exits, exit pathways, exit signs, or emergency lighting units.
  • Secondary means of egress may be an approved "Means of Escape" such as a window or escape hatch leading outside the building.
  • Additional pathway markings, including low level marking and signs, may be required at time of site inspection.
  • Every effort must be made to prevent occupants mistakenly traveling into dead-end spaces.

 

arrow Fire Protection

  • Hire additional staff to perform "Fire Watch" duties
  • Invite volunteer Fire Fighters on site during hours of operation
  • An automatic fire sprinkler system must be provided in accordance to the City Building Code.
  • Provide an approved automatic smoke/heat detection and alarm system in accordance with the City Building Code as required for your location
  • Use of battery operated smoke alarms may be considered on a temporary basis if approved
  • Manually activated device(s) suitable for sounding an alarm can be provided as approved by the local fire authority.
  • Storage or use of flammable or combustible liquids, gasses and solids is prohibited on site.
  • Open flame must be prohibited.
  • Decorative materials must not obstruct fire sprinklers, fire extinguishers, or any other fire protection equipment.
  • Adequate "Fire Lanes" and emergency access to the premises must be provided
  • The fire alarm must be distinctive in tone and audible throughout the haunted house area.

All staff must be specifically instructed to devote their immediate attention to the safe and orderly evacuation of occupants and notification of the fire department before attempting to fight a fire, in order to prevent possible injury. CALL 911 IMMEDIATELY

arrow Fire extinguishers

  • Minimum of one 2A10BC rated extinguisher provided for every 75 ft. of travel
    distance from anywhere in the building in accordance to code
  • Properly mounted (top of unit between 3 and 5 feet from floor).
  • Visible and accessible at all times and clearly illuminated or marked with reflective tape.
  • Decorative materials must not obstruct fire extinguishers, or any other fire protection equipment.

arrow Electrical

  • All wiring and electrical appliances (such has homemade animatronics) must comply with local Electric Codes (usually referenced with NFPA 70)
  • All electrical wiring and electrical appliances will be subject to inspection by an approved electrical inspection agency
  • Extension cords shall be of heavy commercial type, UL listed, in good condition, and shall be appropriate for the intended use.
  • Only UL listed power bars with over-current protection shall be used when the number of outlets provided is inadequate.
  • Power bars shall be plugged directly into provided outlets, and shall not be plugged into one another in series.
  • All extension cords and power strips shall be adequately protected from foot traffic ("Bridged") if paths of travel cannot be avoided.
  • All overhead Blacklight fixtures must be "caged" to prevent removal, damage, or falling bulb and tubes.
  • All suspended light fixtures attached to a truss, pipe, or other support must include a safety cable.
  • An electrical permit and inspection may be required. See your local Building Department for requirements.


arrow Construction & Decorative Materials

  • Interior partitions, cubicles, mazes and the like must be made of noncombustible material
  • All decorative materials (decorations, drapes, backdrops and props) must be inherently flame retardant and labeled as such
  • You may need to provide MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheets) on all decorative and construction materials
  • Fire retardant treatments must meet NFPA and Fire and Building Codes:
    See SafeCoat Products

  • Interior finish of walls and ceilings need to be Class "A" throughout (flame spread of 25 or less)
  • Use of draperies, cardboard and flammable vinyl materials for use as interior finish or for display purposes can not be used unless they are inherently flame resistive, self-extinguishing or otherwise fire retardant treated in an approved manner
  • Under no circumstances shall the use of exposed urethane foam, foam rubber or similarly highly combustible "cushion" or "molded" material be allowed, unless such
  • Care and consideration must be used with respect to smoke generators / foggers and smoke detector locations. Use of smoke generator/fogger may be restricted if determined to be incompatible with smoke detector(s).


arrow Scare Training for Actors

“Actors” can make or break the entertainment value of your Haunted Attraction and the “scare factor” experience influences the satisfaction level of your patrons. It therefore, becomes important to provide Scare Training to your actors, especially the inexperienced "casual actors" in order to properly, safely, and effectively scare individuals within your attraction.

There are different intensity levels of the "scare factor" ranging from subtle, moderate, and impact which people of all ages will respond differently to. An actor must therefore know the difference between how to scaring a child versus scaring a teenager. An actor must also take into consideration any physical limitations that may impair the individuals ability to deal with their startle reflex such as an elderly person using a cane.

One of the most important rules that all actors must abide by is "DO NOT PHYSICALLY TOUCH ANYONE!". As tempting as it may be, it is not polite to "grab and poke" strangers nor do you want your actors to inadvertently cause pain to an existing injury, damage or stain clothing, or accidentally touch someone inappropriately.

"Ghouls For Hire" by Jim O'Rear is a must-read article about hiring Haunted House Actors
Click Here to read it

Never scare a person carrying a baby or small child in their arms,
the startle reflex may result in the baby being dropped


arrow Safety Rules

Here is an example of some basic safety rules that all attractions should list:

" For the safety and enjoyment of everyone, please observe the following Rules"

  • NO SMOKING - THIS WILL BE STRICTLY ENFORCED.
  • The use of matches and lighters are strictly prohibited
  • No weapons of any kind allowed
  • No food or beverages allowed within the attraction
  • No Running
  • No Pushing or Shoving
  • No bumping into walls or displays
  • No aggressive interaction with actors or displays
  • No Pets
  • Do not wear a mask or high heel shoes
  • No costume accessories such as but not limited to, wands, brooms, weapons, sticks, staffs
  • Do not cross into areas cordoned of by orange caution tape
  • Babies must NOT CARRIED IN THE ARMS OF A PARENT-strollers or body harness required
  • Active Surveillance cameras are on site
  • Violation of these rules will result in immediate extraction from the attraction.
    THEFT and VANDALISM will be subject to local laws.

 

arrow Operational and Administrative Procedures

  • Have a sign at the ticket booth and at the entrance. NO REFUNDS!
  • You need some form of radio communication at your haunt for smooth, efficient operation
  • Sell tickets rather than just taking cash. It allows you to track how your sales are going
  • Retain a Repair team on site during hours of operation
  • Front door operator for initial screening of patrons
  • Have pre-sales of tickets if at all possible.
  • All key operations personnel must be in radio contact with each other
  • Key operations personnel include Facilities Manager, Security Lead, Actors Manager
  • Good housekeeping needs to be maintained throughout exhibit and exit pathways at all times
  • Provide a "Green Room" for actors with separate changing areas
  • Provide refreshment and breaks to actors

In the event of trouble call the police department directly rather than calling 911. Make sure that you fill out an incident report at the time of the incident. Take pictures if possible, get signed witness statements if possible.

arrow Signage

  • "NO SMOKING" signs should be posted at the main entrance and throughout the attraction.
  • "ADVISORY SIGNAGE" warning of the "Frightful" aspect of the attraction should be posted at the main entrance and on all publicity material.
  • Access "RULES" should be posted at the main entrance and throughout the attraction.
  • Security and Alarm indicators. "These premises are protected by ..."

arrow Advertising & Marketing

In order to draw attendance to your attraction, a well thought out and thorough advertising and marketing plan must be initiated well in advance of your opening date. Some forms of advertising can be expensive such a radio and TV other can be free but with a well written press releases, the media will usually come to you for a seasonal interest story.

Here are some other suggestions:

- Establish a Web Site
- Link exchanges with similar web sites
- Online Haunted House Directories
- Cross promotion and poster exchange with similar attractions in the area
- Invite Local Papers down for a "scoop"
- Send out press releases
- Approach local cable stations
- Have a charitable association
- Circulate Flyers in local businesses, libraries, city offices, high schools, clubs, etc.
- Attach signs on poles at busy intersections and roads
- Radio advertising, remote broadcast, free passes that they can give away.
- All staff should promote through Word of mouth
- Pizza toppers (or any fast food)
- Classified Ads
- Canned food drive discount
- Free passes to key community members
- Dress in costume and hang out at shopping malls and other crowded areas, pass out flyers
- Submit info to Parks and rec newsletter
- Yard signs
- Large lit roadside display

arrow Special Needs

  • Handicap Accessibility in accordance with local building codes
  • Rest room facilities are required (portable toilets can rented)
  • Recommend that parents bring flashlights for young children
  • Provide flashlights on site as loaners

arrow Clean Up

The project is not over until your location is returned to its original status so treat it like you want to use that location again next year.
Neglecting this item is the surest way to not get the same location next year.


 

So now you know ... a Haunted Halloween Attraction is complicated process requiring in-depth planning and an enormous amount of responsibility and resources to properly and safely build and operate. Failure to comply with municipal and provincial building and fire code requirements can get you shut down resulting in a loss of investment

But most importantly, adherence to proper procedures will minimize the risk of injury or

Have a safe and Spooky Halloween!

If you see any errors or misrepresentations, or if I have forgotten to list something, please contact me (Robert) at 604-760-0191 or us the form on the contact page.

 

 

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