by Matthew M. Jacob
Safety at a Haunted Hayride site is of extreme importance to all concerned, and therefore demands the attention of every staff member, from the parking lot attendant to the maintenance crew. From the moment a patron drives onto the property, until the ride is concluded and everyone has vacated the site, safety measures demand constant awareness. In addition to ensuring the safety of patrons and staff, focusing on the safety not only diminishes the opportunity for accidents to occur in the first place, but also decreases the possibility of litigation down the road.
Every aspect of the event must be reviewed for possible accident producing situations, long before the first patron arrives. This enables staff members to suggest potential circumstances where mishaps might occur, and provides the opportunity to resolve a hazardous condition in advance. Safety must also receive considerable attention during all staff training sessions.
Safety commences with the parking of vehicles. Attention should be directed toward any possible surface hazards that might present a problem in the parking area. The parking area requires adequate illumination and appropriate signage, which includes ingress and egress routes. Attendants must wear reflective parking vests and be equipped with flashlights, illuminated wands and flares.
The commons area, which is located near the ticket booth and loading area, must include appropriate lighting and directional signage, which encourages patrons to move freely between concessions. Sufficient levels of lighting and audio enhance the safe movement of patrons within the wagon loading area. Fencing or another barrier material, is essential to define the loading area and it prevents riders from approaching wagons or tractors before their ride is called. The platform, steps or other boarding apparatus, utilized to facilitate the loading process, must be maintained in sound condition.
Each evening, prior to the first ride, all tractors should be inspected in order to maintain a safe and efficient operating level. The condition of each wagon should also be checked for loose boards, splinters and sharp edges.
The staff must receive extensive training relative to their particular function. The opportunity to rehearse and practice the execution of their task is an important component of that training. Role playing and situation exercises are additional techniques that are helpful during staff training programs. All equipment, supplies and material used at the site, must perform in the manner intended. Their safe operation reduces the risk of injury to staff and patrons.
Even with the utmost dedication to safety, unforeseen occurrences must be anticipated. Prior to opening night, meetings with the local law enforcement agency, fire officials and an ambulance service are scheduled to formulate emergency response arrangements. Security staff at the site must be trained accordingly. The staff must respond immediately to all accidents and offer any assistance required. After attending to the injured, accident reports must be filled out, reviewed and signed by all parties. Getting statements from witnesses to the accident are very important.
In addition to obvious rationale for providing a safe event, it is crucial to the Haunted Attraction industry for the public to know their safety is our principle consideration. Proper lighting and signage, equipment maintenance and up keep, and intense staff training and practice are keys to providing a safe and accident free event.
Matt Jacob is president of Haunted Hayrides, Inc. which began franchising the concept in 1985 and continues to be the only nationally franchised organization in the Haunted Attraction industry.