View Full Version : We Need Advice

12-17-2009, 07:20 PM
We have been a home haunt for the last 10 yrs strictly for fun, but now we have to expand because we have outgrown our house and yard. and finances. We had over 1000 people on halloween night this year. It is expected thoughout our neighborhood that it get bigger and better every year, so now we are looking into making your dream come true and hoepfully get a return on out past investment...... So we have looked into permits and codes here in Florida and right off the bat we have hit a roadblock!!
The Board of County Commissioners is telling me that I need an engineered drawing, which would not be a problem because I am a structural Engerineer. I am wondering why they are telling me that even with all temperory walls or any wall structures that they will have to installed by a Licensed General Contractor. My question is has anyone else had this issue, and what else can I do to get around it, any thoughts would be greatly helpful. :confused:

Front Yard Fright
12-17-2009, 08:58 PM
I have heard horror stories about dealing with local officals. It's best to stay on their good side and try to abide by their rules. Also, ask to see the code in paper. This last year the city was giving us a hard time with our home haunt, but when I asked to see the paperwork, their tones changed and didn't give us any more problems.

12-18-2009, 08:14 AM
I agree with Front, ask to see everything in writing and keep on their good side at the same time. Too many dirty hands with the local members that be. A lot of them do not like Haunted Houses and do whatever they can to hurt or destroy. Not saying that is what is happening there, if they are on the up and up, then see it all in writing, check codes and make sure it is all correct and legal. Then follow their instructions to avoid shut down or opening problems, or even reputation problems down the road with them. If it is honest and you are honest, they will give you less flack later because you have always worked with them and been upfront. If they start "steering" you in someone only to construction something for you, then I would get some serious red flags. I figure if that town or county doesn't want my business, another area would and give me less hell. The problem is, once it starts in one spot, you will always have headaches down the road if you stay with them. if they are corrupt, they will always be and it is very hard to destroy that corruption.

Allen H
12-18-2009, 11:45 AM
I do not necessarily think that alot of code/ fire marshal types do not like haunted houses. I think that is unfair. It is their job to ensure the safety of all occupants that enter your show and ensure that they can leave quickly in an emergency. We try our best to have confusing and disorienting layouts and we try to keep them in the dark and on edge, the two do not mix well.
For every horror story we have about them they have one about us. It is not faire for either side to lump us in with the bad ones.
I am willing to bet that the drawings they are requesting are needed by a code based on your occupancy and type of business. I have worked alot in FL and It seems to me that they are much harder on attractions than other states. I personally think that universal and disney have encouraged the counties and state to keep smaller attraction under their thumb with overregulation.
I would try talking to them, give them references showing that the way you want to build your walls is an industry standard. Ask if cube farm offices need engineered drawings for where they put their cube walls, find out if cube walls need to be installed by a general contractor.
One issue is they simply may not be familiar with the type of attraction you are running. The more you inform them the better they can help you get what they need.
You may want to ask around for a licensed general contractor in your area who is willing to sign off on construction after you install the walls. I would offer them a chunk of tickets in exchange for this service. Explain everything to everyone and Im it will work out fine for you.
Im thinking the county wants to be able to have consequences if something goes wrong (like walls falling on a patron). If they are installed by a licensed contractor then they can pull or review his license. If you install your walls and people get hurt then they foresee people saying "you allowed walls to be installed by a nonlicenced person?" Thus them taking the blame as opposed to having a fall guy.
Codes are different everywhere especially on the county level what may be BS in one county may be law in the next. My wife was a fire marshal in TX, she loves haunted houses, she really loves safe haunted houses. She has inspected and opened plenty, and she has saved thousands of lives in bad haunted houses by making them become safe before they open.
I wish you the best of luck, FL is a tough state and I hope you are not in Orange Co. As they were very strict in the interpretation of the code.
Allen H

12-18-2009, 11:55 AM
THere are other things involved too. There was a haunt in a Chicago suburb that gave a large donation to the fireman's association each year, and they never had any inspection problems. Then it was decided to stop that annual donation, and they got shut down with a huge number of violations.

Allen H
12-18-2009, 12:06 PM
There is no way of knowing what else is involved unless all of the reasonable requests are met and enough information is given to them. Having worked in the industry a very long time I have run into less crooked inspectors than I have crooked vendors and haunt owners. Everyone in the industry has a rip off story it seems.
Yes there are crooked officials out there but in this case it seems just as likely (so far ,from the information given) that they are trying to do their job when they are not that informed on our industry.
Allen H

The Nightmare Factory
12-19-2009, 11:58 AM
I'll jump in here.

Fire Codes - I have google searched codes in Florida for you, but haven't found anything, get a hard copy of the codes from your local juristiction. Be nice, but force them to show you in writing where they are getting thier codes from. Know the codes for that state, we are in Oregon (first link) Indiana (second link) look at how the fire peple in Indian rewrote codes to their liking.

I have also sited the case of a haunt in Texas that was over run by the local fire marshal, to the point of no return.

http://www2.iccsafe.org/states/oregon/07_Fire/07_PDFs/Appendix%20H_Fire%20Prevention%20Guidelines%20for% 20Haunted%20Houses%20and%20Similar%20Temporary%20I nstallations.pdf



Get you plans approved and signed off - once they are signed off post them in you office, ticket booths, toilets, anywhere! POST THEM, so if you do get another visit, you have them on the wall ready to show. We have one spot for all permits in our headquarters.

Safety plan - write one up, detail everything. Submit it to the fire marshal (see we have all this covered, be nice, but prove to them you are ready)

Isn't this fun!?

I suggest -

Emergency Exits at least every 50 feet of travel, these must open up to a clearly marked path of egress.
If you are building inside of a warehouse for example, the exits must open up so theat in an emergency I know where to go without any question!
Fire extinguishers at each of those exits and thoughout the haunt.
Emergency lighting so that if you loose power those lights kick in.
Flashlights for every room.
Have the fire depmartment come out and teach a class in how to use an extinguisher.
First aide classes.

there is so much more to being a for profit haunter than meets the eye.. take it step by step. you are headed in the right direction. Go to a workshop, ask more question, take classes for those of us that have been there done that.

Best of luck to you.

Allen H
12-19-2009, 04:49 PM
It sounds like you do not have fire issues yet, just building inspectors right? But fire Marshal advice is always good. Keep in mind that fire and building inspectors are different people and different agencies, approval from one does not guarantee approval from the other.
This might be overly cautious of me, but I would also watch your wording on public forums.
"has anyone else had this issue, and what else can I do to get around it" If the inspector looks at this public forum and figures out this is you then he has proof you are trying to "get around" the codes as opposed to seeing if they really apply to you. That may not have been your intent but that is what it says and this is a public forum.
Allen H

12-20-2009, 12:03 PM
We have been taking notes from everyones' advice. It is all greatly appreciated. We will defiantly have to dig a little deeper into the codes and we will also look into taking some of the workshops.

We will make sure to keep an eye on our wording while asking questions, because we do want this to be fun, safe, profitable business.

Thanks again for everyones' help and please continue to post, we are continuously checking in to get updates.

02-22-2010, 09:27 AM
What alot of people do not understand is that cities and counties can be held responsible if anything were to happen at haunted houses. When building or fire officials sign off or issue a permit it makes the taxpayers liable. In Iowa if a haunt is 1000 sq ft or larger it MUST be sprinkled or have firewalls every 1000 ft. Also if a haunt decides they don't want to play by the rules and something happens I can guarantee it will affect everyone else with more regulations. Contrary to popular belief around here I do not try to shut down haunts but if they are building entire haunts out of black plastic or are trying to backdoor the codes I will call them on it. If I see black plastic in a haunt I will call the fire marshal. If people can't or won't do what is necessary to protect the industry. I will. I do not care who opens a haunt but they will do it abiding by the same rules I have to abide by, because their actions can come back and hurt my haunt that is compliance and I will do all that I can to protect that. So if I am not very popular thats too bad.