Haunted Houses and NFPA 101
NFPA Journal ® online exclusive, September/October 2007
By John Nicholson
NFPA 101®, Life Safety Code®, is as much a part of the Halloween season as spooky images, creaking staircases, and ghostly sounds.
Haunted houses, whether a part of a larger amusement park or carnival layouts or smaller temporary structures, fall under the requirements of NFPA 101. History has shown that complying with life safety requirements is vital. The tragic May 11, 1984 fire in the "
According to NFPA’s investigation of the Six Flags fire, several major factors contributed to the loss of life. Those factors included the failure to detect and extinguish the fire at its incipient stage by means of fixed fire detection and suppression systems; ignition of synthetic foam materials and subsequent fire and smoke spread involving combustible interior finishes; and the difficulty of escape by occupants based on fire conditions in the "haunted-house" type of environment.
Lessons are learned from the October 27, 1973 Washington Reid School PTA "haunted house" fire. In that fire 30 minutes before a PTA-built "haunted house" maze was to be open for children's use, the maze caught fire killing one of the PTA volunteer members helping to construct the maze.
Specifically, NFPA 101-2006 edition treats “Haunted Houses” as “Special Amusement Buildings”, which are considered Assembly Occupancies under NFPA 101. The specifics are Section 12.4.7 for New Assembly Occupancies and under Section 13.4.7 for Existing Assembly Occupancies.
According to the 2006 Life Safety Code Handbook, any special amusement building is considered assembly occupancy, even if the occupant load is not more than 50 persons. However, special amusement buildings do not include theaters, movie houses, and other similar types of assembly occupancies.
In addition, Annex material in the Life Safety Code states special amusement buildings include “amusements such as a haunted house, a roller coaster–type ride within a building, a multilevel play structure within a building, a submarine ride, and similar amusements where the occupants are not in the open air.”
By nature, many of these types of facilities are unique; thus, the fire safety concerns are unique and must be evaluated accordingly. Special attention should be given to overall exit arrangement, exit travel distance, exit and emergency lighting, use of flammable liquids and combustible interior finish and construction materials, use and operational condition of fire detection, alarm and extinguishing equipment, use of special effects, adequate trained and supervised staff, established emergency procedures, and readily available means to notify local fire, police and emergency medical services. For added safety, it may be necessary to limit occupant load, add additional emergency exits or establish other special precautions to minimize a potential risk due to some unique circumstance. In any event, every effort should be made to provide an enjoyable but fire safe environment as determined by the local fire inspection authority. Included in the requirements for both new and existing Special Amusement Buildings are automatic sprinklers, temporary water supply, smoke detection, alarm initiation, illumination, exit marking, and interior finish.
According to the Life Safety Code Handbook, quick-response automatic sprinklers will be appropriate in most cases. However, competent automatic sprinkler designers and the authority having jurisdiction should review the design.
The code also states the importance of exits and means of egress being well lighted upon the activation of a smoke detector or suppression system. The code also stresses that any conflicting or confusing sounds or visuals be stopped and that where a person’s relative position to an exit is changed, additional exit signs be provided.
Directions to exits are also important, according to the code. Floor proximity signs, as required should provide patrons an additional tool to assist them in finding their way out under emergency conditions.
Special amusement buildings
Chapter 12 Section 12.4.7 and Chapter 13, Section 13.4.7 are identical, deal with the life-safety requirements for Special Amusement Buildings, and state the following:
12/220.127.116.11* General. Special amusement buildings, regardless of occupant load, shall meet the requirements for assembly occupancies in addition to the requirements of 12/13.4.7, unless the special amusement building is a multilevel play structure that is not more than 10 feet (3,050 millimeters) in height and has aggregate horizontal projections not exceeding 160 feet2 (15 meters2).
12/18.104.22.168* Automatic Sprinklers. Every special amusement building, other than buildings or structures not exceeding 10 feet (3,050 millimeters) in height and not exceeding 160 feet2 (15 meters2) in aggregate horizontal projection, shall be protected throughout by an approved, supervised automatic sprinkler system installed and maintained in accordance with Section 9.7.
12/22.214.171.124 Temporary Water Supply. Where the special amusement building required to be sprinklered by 12/126.96.36.199 is movable or portable, the sprinkler water supply shall be permitted to be provided by an approved temporary means.
12/188.8.131.52 Smoke Detection. Where the nature of the special amusement building is such that it operates in reduced lighting levels, the building shall be protected throughout by an approved automatic smoke detection system in accordance with Section 9.6.
12/184.108.40.206 Alarm Initiation. Actuation of any smoke detection system device shall sound an alarm at a constantly attended location on the premises.
12/220.127.116.11 Illumination. Actuation of the automatic sprinkler system, or any other suppression system, or actuation of a smoke detection system having an approved verification or cross-zoning operation capability shall provide for the following:
(1) Increase in illumination in the means of egress to that required by Section 7.8
(2) Termination of any conflicting or confusing sounds and visuals
12/18.104.22.168 Exit Marking.
12/22.214.171.124.1 Exit marking shall be in accordance with Section 7.10.
12/126.96.36.199.2 Floor proximity exit signs shall be provided in accordance with 188.8.131.52.
12/184.108.40.206.3* In special amusement buildings where mazes, mirrors, or other designs are used to confound the egress path, approved directional exit marking that becomes apparent in an emergency shall be provided.
12/220.127.116.11 Interior Finish. Interior wall and ceiling finish materials complying with Section 10.2 shall be A throughout.
Open flames and pyrotechnics
NFPA 101 also requires conforming to Section 12.7.3 for open flame and pyrotechnics for new and conforming to Section 13.7.3 for open flame and pyrotechnics for existing. The 12.7.3 and 13.7.3 provisions are identical and state the following:
12/13.7.3 Open Flame Devices and Pyrotechnics. No open flame devices or pyrotechnic devices shall be used in any assembly occupancy, unless otherwise permitted by the following:
(1) Pyrotechnic special effect devices shall be permitted to be used on stages before proximate audiences for ceremonial or religious purposes, as part of a demonstration in exhibits, or as part of a performance, provided that both of the following criteria are met:
(a) Precautions satisfactory to the authority having jurisdiction are taken to prevent ignition of any combustible material.
(b) Use of the pyrotechnic device complies with NFPA 1126, Use of Pyrotechnics before a Proximate Audience.
(2) Flame effects before an audience shall be permitted in accordance with NFPA 160, Flame Effects Before an Audience .
(3) Open flame devices shall be permitted to be used in the following situations, provided that precautions satisfactory to the authority having jurisdiction are taken to prevent ignition of any combustible material or injury to occupants:
(a) For ceremonial or religious purposes
(b) On stages and platforms where part of a performance
(c) Where candles on tables are securely supported on substantial noncombustible bases and candle flame is protected
(4) The requirement of 12/13.7.3 shall not apply to heat-producing equipment complying with 9.2.2.
(5) The requirement of 12/13.7.3 shall not apply to food service operations in accordance with 12.7.2.
(6) Gas lights shall be permitted to be used, provided that precautions are taken, subject to the approval of the authority having jurisdiction, to prevent ignition of any combustible materials.
Furnishings, decorations, and scenery
The 12.7.4 and 13.7.4 provisions, which deal with furnishings, decorations, and scenery are also identical and are as follows:
12/18.104.22.168 Fabrics and films used for decorative purposes, all draperies and curtains, and similar furnishings shall be in accordance with the provisions of 10.3.1.
12/22.214.171.124 The authority having jurisdiction shall impose controls on the quantity and arrangement of combustible contents in assembly occupancies to provide an adequate level of safety to life from fire.
12/126.96.36.199* Exposed foamed plastic materials and unprotected materials containing foamed plastic used for decorative purposes or stage scenery shall have a heat release rate not exceeding 100 kW where tested in accordance with UL 1975, Fire Tests for Foamed Plastics Used for Decorative Purposes.
12/188.8.131.52 The requirement of 12/184.108.40.206 shall not apply to individual foamed plastic items and items containing foamed plastic where the foamed plastic does not exceed 1 lb (0.45 kg) in weight.
12/220.127.116.11 The provision of 10.3.2 for cigarette ignition resistance of newly introduced upholstered furniture and mattresses shall not apply to assembly occupancies.
In this Section:
|Lessons Learned from the Minneapolis Bridge Collapse
An interview with Minneapolis Fire Chief Jim Clack.
|Haunted Houses and NFPA 101
The Life Safety Code is as much a part of Halloween as creaking staircases and ghostly sounds.
|Flammable Ice Cream? Yes.
Addressing flammable liquid hazards in unexpected places
|‘Live Free or Die’ State Listens to Its Youth
The sale of fire-safe cigarettes only becomes law in October