Safety Release Handcuffs & Escape Rooms

My angry handcuff meme begged a question… and a long-time reader almost immediately wrote in to ask it:

Stylized image of handcuffs.

The Handcuff Question

“First of all, I am 100% in agreement with not locking players up and people having a safe and easy way for freeing themselves from an escape room in case of a fire.

You mentioned that using “police handcuffs” is really bad, and I totally agree. But my question to you is, what is your opinion on real looking metal handcuffs that have a safety release?”

Black handcuffs with safety release latches.

What About Safety Release Handcuffs?

I’m not going to rehash the ideas that we discussed in our lengthy exploration of physical restraints in escape rooms around the world. That post is a couple years old, but I think it still holds up.

For us there are 2 answers to the question of safety release handcuffs:

The Technocratic Answer

Ask your fire inspector and your insurer.

If your local authorities and insurance company are cool with safety release handcuffs, then yeah, they’re fine.

They meet our basic standards of allowing players to free themselves in an emergency.

Stylized image of hands raised with handcuffs binding them together.

The Nuanced Answer

Even if you’re checking the proper legalistic boxes, we still don’t have any love for safety release handcuffs.

Releases Require Dexterity

Safety releases are way better than nothing, but they still require fine motor skills, which some will struggle with, especially in a crisis.

This can be made worse by the angle or positioning of the cuffs in some game designs.

Discomfort

One of the features that double locking police handcuffs have over the safety release handcuffs is that once locked, they can’t ratchet tighter around the wearer.

If you bump them the wrong way, those safety release handcuffs can become painfully tight.

Don’t misread this section. This is not an endorsement of using police handcuffs in escape rooms. Rather, it’s a reason to not use safety release handcuffs either.

Better Solutions

There are better solutions than safety release handcuffs.

Maze Rooms Austin had an elegant and comfortable restraint solution in their game, The Shed. They used a padded leather sex restraint and attached it to a chain with a carabiner.

Leather and metal cuffs.

This had 3 key advantages:

  • It was super easy to release because the carabiner was large and easy to get a full hand on.
  • The restraint used a leather buckle so it couldn’t ratchet tighter while we played.
  • It was comfortable, which was good because we wore the restraint for most of the game.

Closing Thoughts

Safety release handcuffs are adequate, but not great.

There are better, more comfortable solutions than safety release handcuffs.

Before you physically restrain your players in any way, always check this stuff out with your fire inspector and insurer.

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