Halloween traditions such as jack-o'-lanterns, trick-or-treating, and so-called "haunted houses" bring families and friends together each year to celebrate fall in festive, memorable ways. Unfortunately, Halloween's activities also carry fire safety risks that could result in injuries or, worse, 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.
"We urge Tennesseans to keep their Halloween festivities safe and fun by remembering to practice caution when using open flames around fall decorations or Halloween costumes," said State Fire Marshal and Tennessee Department of Commerce & Insurance Commissioner Hodgen Mainda.
To ensure your family has a happy and safe Halloween, the SFMO shares these fire-safety 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.
At Halloween, so-called "haunted houses" are popular destinations for trick-or-treaters. According to Tennessee code, these are known as Special Amusement Buildings and defined 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 so-called haunted house, always be aware of your surroundings and look out for safety features that can make the difference during a real-life emergency. Remember:
- If attending a haunted house, always be aware of the nearest exits in case emergency strikes. Exit signs must be installed at required exit access doorways.
- 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.
- All special amusement buildings must be equipped with an automatic sprinkler system.
- Report any violations of these rules or any dangerous activity you might see to the State Fire Marshal's Office or your local code enforcement officials.