Inspection requirements for local haunted houses
Before Ruby Falls can let people inside the Haunted Cavern it first must pass a state and local inspection.
Hidden inside their maze are safety tools and precautions that are meant to keep families safe.
"If they don't meet our requirement we will shut them down, they won't have an event," said Chattanooga Fire Marshal William Matlock.
Fire marshals inspected the Haunted Cavern last month to make sure all the scares are within the state's standards.
It takes nine months for Todd Patton to plan the event each year and he gave Channel 3 the same tour he gave the fire marshal.
"One of our first aid kits, it looks like it's just part of the scene but it's actually a real first-aid kit," Patton said.
More than 50 characters are part of the haunted house. They all must learn the escape plan and where the hidden exits are in case of an emergency.
Plus, more than 15 fire extinguishers are spread throughout the area.
"Usually about every 50 feet you'll find a fire extinguisher," Patton said.
But some of the most important safety precautions might not even be noticeable.
"All of our materials you see hanging, and all of our camo is sprayed with fire-proof material," Patton said.
The Haunted Caverns passed its inspection, and Patton says this year's fear level is a 10.
But for some smaller venues, the bar is too high and many pop up sites are quickly shut down.
"Unfortunately sometimes we've come across them where there's just two or three people trying to put something together and the staffing is not there," Chief Matlock said, "And the egress components and the exits and emergency lights are not what they need to be."
A few of the local haunted houses are outside city limits, which means it's up to the volunteer fire department in that jurisdiction to make the inspection.
A permit is not required to operate a haunted house, but an inspection is.
The TN State Fire Marshal's Office gave us these tips to share with consumers,
"When visiting a haunted house style amusement house, always keep these safety guidelines in mind:
• Only attend a haunted house that has an automatic fire sprinkler system.
• Exit signs must be installed at required exit access doorways.
• An outdoor venue is typically safer than an indoor venue.
• Only licensed operators should operate any pyrotechnical flame effect.
• Haunted houses are created to disorient. Don’t forget about safety. Always look for the nearest exit and use it in case of an emergency.
• An emergency voice/alarm communication system, which can serve as a public-address system, shall be installed.
• Report any violations of these rules or any dangerous activity you might see to the State Fire Marshal’s Office or local code enforcement officials."