Jack-o’-lanterns, decorative candles, and so-called “haunted houses” are all Halloween traditions. Unfortunately, all those traditions carry risks that could result in injuries or a fatality. According to data from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), decorations are the first thing to ignite in 900 reported home fires each year. Two of every five of these fires were started by a candle. With Halloween fast approaching, the Tennessee State Fire Marshal’s Office (SFMO) is encouraging Tennesseans to keep safety in mind to help avoid fire risks commonly associated with Halloween decorations and activities.
“Taking a few simple precautions could help keep your Halloween festivities safe and fun,” said Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance (TDCI) Commissioner and State Fire Marshal Julie Mix McPeak. “Using an abundance of flammable decorations and candles can increase the risk of fires during the holidays, so we urge Tennesseans to practice caution if using open flames around fall decorations or Halloween costumes.”
To ensure your family has a safe Halloween, the SFMO shares these tips:
Stay away from costumes that have long trailing fabric. If you or your child is wearing a mask, make sure the mask’s eye holes are large enough to provide a clear field of view.
When trick-or-treating, provide children with a flashlight or glow stick for lighting. Adult supervision is also strongly recommended.
Dried flowers, cornstalks, and crepe paper are highly flammable. Ensure all decorations are kept away from open flames and other sources of heat like light bulbs or heaters.
Use battery-operated candles or glow sticks in jack-o-lanterns. If you use a real candle, use extreme caution. Make sure children are watched at all times when candles are lit. When lighting candles inside jack-o’-lanterns, use long, fireplace-style matches or a utility lighter. Be sure to place lit pumpkins well away from anything that can burn and far enough out of the way of trick-or-treaters, doorsteps, walkways and yards.
Make sure all smoke alarms in the home are working. Test each alarm and replace the entire unit if it is over 10 years old.
Instruct children to stay away from open flames. Be sure they know how to stop, drop, cover, and roll if their clothing catches fire. Have them practice, stopping immediately, dropping to the ground, covering their face with hands, and rolling over and over to put the flames out.
In Tennessee, the SFMO regulates Special Amusement Buildings – popularly known around Halloween as haunted houses or haunted mansions. State law defines Special Amusement Buildings as: A building that is temporary, permanent or mobile that contains a device or system that conveys passengers or provides a walkway along, around or over a course in any direction as a form of amusement arranged so that the egress path is not readily apparent due to visual or audio distractions or an intentionally confounded egress path, or is not readily available because of the mode of conveyance through the building or structure.
When visiting a haunted house or amusement house, always be aware of your surroundings and on the lookout for safety features that can make the difference during a real-life emergency.
If attending a haunted house, choose an attraction that has an automatic fire sprinkler system. These activities are meant to disorient, but don’t forget safety. Always be aware of the nearest exits in case emergency strikes.
Keep exits clear of decorations, so nothing blocks your escape routes. 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. An emergency voice/alarm communication system, which can serve as a public-address system, is required.
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.
Note: The SFMO is involved in the review and inspection of facilities that have a calculated occupant load of 300 or more. The following jurisdictions are authorized to adopt and enforce their own building and fire codes which in some cases might be more stringent. The following jurisdictions (cities and counties) are exempt:
Alcoa, Athens, Bartlett, Brentwood, Bristol, Chattanooga, Clarksville, Collierville, Columbia, Cookeville, Dyersburg, Franklin, Gallatin, Gatlinburg, Goodlettsville, Hendersonville, Jackson, Johnson City, Kingsport, Knox County, Farragut, Knoxville, Lebanon, Madison County, Maryville, Memphis/Shelby County, Millington, Montgomery County, Murfreesboro, Mt. Juliet, Nashville/Davidson County (Oak Hill, Belle Meade, Forest Hills, Berry Hill, & Lakewood not included), Oak Ridge, Paris, Pigeon Forge, Sevierville, and White House. Check with your local building officials if you have questions before you visit a haunted house.