Electrical fires are very common and a threat to the safety of a haunted house. According to the Electrical Safety Foundation International, in the United States, 50,900 fires each year are attributed to electrical failure or malfunction, resulting in 490 deaths and 1,440 injuries. Arcing faults are a major cause of these fires. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that AFCIs could prevent more than 50 percent of the electrical fires that occur every year. About 3,300 residential fires originate in extension cords each year, killing 50 people and injuring about 270 others. Here are five things to consider regarding the electrical practice in a haunt.
1. Having a plan is very important. Electrical mistakes are easy to make and often become an issue when builders are in a hurry and/or don’t create an electrical plan ahead of time. This is especially true if multiple people are creating scenes within the haunt. It is possible for each person to create a scene and then look for the nearest plug to bring their scene to life. This can lead to power failures. A circuit chart demonstrating that the load on each circuit does not exceed the breaker amperage should also be completed.
2. Every outlet in the haunt should be tested with a simple three pronged tester that lights up to indicate that they are wired correctly and working properly. All of the building outlets should be securely mounted with proper covers. All of the 120v outlets should have the ability to accommodate three prongs. Grounded GFCI outlets must be used any scene that has moisture, such as dry ice or mist.
3. It’s best to use LED lights within all the special effects lighting in the haunt. LED lights don’t get hot and use about 3 watts to produce 60 watts of light. To prevent fires, be sure not to place cloth or untreated props near the lights.
4. All extension cords must be UL Certified, a minimum 12 gauge with two prongs and a ground. Cutting off the ground (3rd prong) from plugs, 2 pronged lamp cords, and/or 3 pronged to 2 pronged adapters is not allowed.
5. It is important to create a “power station” so that all of the power can be turned on and off from one location in order to control the lights and sounds. The house lights should also be accessible from that station to turn on lights in case of an emergency. The switch for this station should be rated to handle the load applied to that switch. Commercial power cords and commercial power strips that have their own power switch should be used to get electricity to run from the power station to the various scenes. Small, household extension cords are not recommended for haunted houses, even if they’re home haunts. The power station should also have a fire extinguisher, duct tape and a flashlight nearby as well as an emergency plan posted.