Without their flashlights, these kids would be in pitch dark. They're about to enter the diabolically twisty turns of a corn maze. Part of the fun of being in a maze is that you can get confused, you can get lost. But in an emergency, being lost in such a complicated structure–with all these winding paths–can turn into a huge problem.
A young family called 911 from a maze when they got confused in the dark.
But what if that had been a real emergency? A heart attack? A fire? In Pennsylvania—corn stalks in a maze parking lot went up in flames. When we secretly visited six different corn mazes, what we found was scary.
"A lot of time it takes a disaster for things to happen, and that's sad,” said Bob McCarthy, Fire Safety Expert.
And here in Massachusetts, there’s nobody overseeing these places. There are no rules about staffing or first aid or fire alarms or emergency exits. The state fire marshal is so concerned about mazes–he's put out this list of safety recommendations.
But is everyone following them? No way.
The fire marshal says mazes open at night should provide flashlights: but when we went here they said they'd rent us one. This place didn't offer them at all. The fire marshal recommends maps for a quick exit. But no one gave us maps. It says there should be emergency flags and safety instructions. But more than half of the places we visited had none of those things.
The fire marshal also recommends "the fire department walk through and pre-plan in case of an emergency,” but we found only three mazes we checked had ever been inspected.
"I can't believe they don't follow the recommendations," said McCarthy.
But what we found was not all bad — a maze played us a safety video–and gave us emergency flags. This place has water stations, emergency exits and dozens of staffers.
"Our principal focus is always on safety," said Larry Davis, owner of Mega Maze.
So along with the fun, your focus should be on safety, too–experts say before you go in, ask the maze operator about their emergency procedures so you know exactly what to do if something goes wrong.
For more information on corn maze safety: http://www.mass.gov/Eeops/docs/dfs/osfm/advisories/2011/20110601_corn_mazes.pdf
(Copyright (c) 2011 Sunbeam Television Corp. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)