After death of teens in Polish 'escape room,' attention turns to safety

Published: Jan. 6, 2019 at 9:36 AM EST
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Five teens died inside an "escape room" attraction in Poland on Friday from carbon monoxide asphyxiation caused by smoke from a fire that broke out in an adjacent room, investigators said on Saturday, according to the Associated Press.

The fire was sparked by gas near a heating system boiler, and the tragedy was likely amplified by a lack of a proper evacuation route, according to one senior firefighter.

Following the teens' deaths, Polish Minister of the Interior Joachim Brudziński to call for scores of the country's escape rooms to be inspected.

In the United States, experts say inspections take place once an escape room is built.

"In order to stay in business, you have to stay up with safety standards, and you have to play by the book," said John Denley, president of Escape Room International, which designs and builds escape rooms across the country. "It helps everyone sleep better at night."

Escape rooms have become a growing trend in recent years. The aim of the amusement is for groups of people, usually between eight to 10 people, to solve puzzles in order to either achieve a goal or, as the name suggests, escape a room. The puzzles can involve props, code numbers, and other clues found within the room to allow the players to successfully meet their goal. The rooms typically have a time limit.

Denley said the rooms his company creates are adventure based — one room might have players defeating an evil sorcerer while another might have them discovering clues to get a zombie antidote.

But a rule with his company is to never lock players in.

"Any room we've ever built, you're always welcome to leave room at any time, and one reason we found is because people act much differently," Denley said, adding that locking people in often makes them more aggressive.

And a number of tools used in the game also double as safety precautions.

Denley said that the rooms are video monitored. This allows for not only supervision, but for those overseeing the rooms to offer tips and clues if the participants get stuck.

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