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October 23, 2012

Illinois State Fire Marshal Urges Caution In Temporary Haunted Houses
It’s Halloween Time: Fire Safety Codes must be Followed

SPRINGFIELD – As thousands of families and children prepare to enjoy the Halloween season, the Office of the Illinois State Fire Marshal (OSFM) reminds residents to be vigilant and follow the necessary fire safety precautions when entering haunted houses. These amusements can present special hazards that make them particularly vulnerable to fires if applicable fire codes are not followed.

Haunted houses are considered “special amusement buildings,” which means the structure is temporary, permanent, or mobile and conveys people through a walkway. Often in these temporary structures are built with combustible materials such as plywood and cardboard. OSFM calls on local enforcement agencies and haunted house owners and operators to follow safety code guidelines.

“Our priority for families and children across the state is to ensure that Halloween is enjoyed in a safe environment”, said State Fire Marshal Larry Matkaitis. “Haunted house operators must follow state regulations and abide by fire safety code requirements.”

Haunted house owners are reminded that its occupancies are not exempt from fire sprinkler or fire detection system requirements.  Every special amusement building exceeding 10 ft in height and 160 square feet in area, shall be protected throughout by an approved, supervised and maintained automatic sprinkler system. .

Other smaller structures are exempt from the sprinkler system requirement, but should follow the following fire safety codes according to the Life Safety Code under the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA):

• 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 Kevin Switzer  at (217) 558-0639, or visit http://www.sfm.illinois.gov.



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