LOCKPORT, Ill. — Haunted house attractions are more popular than ever, with increasingly sophisticated pyrotechnics and special effects being commonplace all across today’s scare park landscape, but how do state inspectors make sure they are safe before the public ventures in?
According to inspectors with the Illinois Department of Labor (IDOL) and Chicagoland fire marshals, the bedrock of haunted houses getting the green light for operation is making sure employee training and safety permits are up to snuff.
“We do create this world of make-believe,” said John LaFlamboy from Hell’s Gate Haunted House in Lockport. “It looks like chaos, but the goal is to have an organized and safe facility.”
According to LaFlamboy, state safety guidelines require haunted house operators to know everything from where to place a fire extinguisher and emergency exits, to how to deal with an unruly customer, and how to handle a medical situation — but the process of getting everything in place starts by talking to the local fire marshal.
“Make contact with the fire department before you start building expensive stuff,” LaFlamboy said. “And make sure you’ve thought everything through safety-wise.”
Brian Fox, carnival division manager for IDOL, told WGN News the inspectors he sends to attractions are looking for potential problems that they and haunted house operators can work to solve before the first visitor’s arrival.
“Dead Ends are dangerous because at the end of the day, if something goes wrong, people need to know how to escape,” Fox said.
According to Fox, other specific safety features inspectors are looking to be in place include panic hardware on exit doors, restrictions on open flame devices and pyrotechnics, flame resistant furnishings and decorations, and worker training for emergency situations.
“What’s your plan if something goes wrong?” Fox asked.
If you or someone you know has visited a haunted house without a safety permit or may have been operating unsafely, the Illinois Department of Labor can be reached at 217-557-3112, or 217-993-2941 during after hours.