Escape Room Safety Report 2019

Escape rooms are a broadly safe activity.

In every escape room we played in 2019, we could have freed ourselves from the game in the event of an emergency, except for in 1 game, for only the first 5 minutes.

There is a small minority of companies that makes bad decisions. Thankfully, the owner community has generally recognized the need for safety and adhered to fire code and common sense.

A green exit sign with a person approaching a door.

Background

On January 13, 2019, we published a Basic Safety Evaluation for our escape room reviews.

We wrote, “the most important aspect of escape room safety is that players have the ability to free themselves in the event of an emergency.” That was the premise around which we established our safety rubric.

In that piece, we wrote “during 2019, we will maintain a dataset of basic escape room safety in the games that we play. We will issue a report at the end of the year.”

As we conclude 2019 today, here is the 2019 Basic Safety Report.

Data-Driven Analysis

This is a non-scientific study without random sampling. The dataset represents the games that we played in 2019.

We assigned a safety rating to 161 escape rooms that we played in 2019.*

This safety rating had two parts: Emergency Exit & Physical Restraints.

Emergency Exits

Room Escape Artist Emergency Exit Rating Scale:

We used this scale to evaluate every game we reviewed in 2019. The included percentages correlate to how often we gave a particular rating in 2019.

  • [A+] No Lock – 79.5% – Players are never locked in at all.
  • [A] Push To Exit – 16.77% – Players are magnetically locked in and may free themselves with the push of a button near the door.
  • [B] Emergency Key – 3.73% – Players may free themselves using a spare key hung near a locked exit door.
  • [F] No Emergency Exit – 0% – Players are trapped within the game and cannot exit unless they win or the door is opened by a gamemaster

In 100% of the escape rooms we played, we could leave the room through an emergency exit at any time.

96% of games met the industry standard of an unlocked exit or a push to exit button (A+ or A rating).

The remaining 6 games had emergency keys available to players next to the exit door.

Physical Restraints

Room Escape Artist Physical Restraints Rating Scale: 

We used this scale to evaluate every game we reviewed in 2019. The included percentages correlate to how often we gave a particular rating in 2019.

  • [A+] No Physical Restraints – 97.52% – Players are never physically restrained.
  • [A] Push To Release – 0.62% – Players are magnetically restrained and may free themselves with the push of a button within reach of their restraints.
  • [B] Mechanical Release – 1.24% – Players may free themselves using a mechanical release (like a safety switch on handcuffs).
  • [F] No Emergency Release – 0.62% – Players are restrained with no way to release the restraint other than winning the release or gamemaster intervention.

Physical restraints have become passé. Less than 3% of the games we played in 2019 had physical restraints of any kind. We explored the trajectory of this trend globally back in 2017: Escape Room Kink: Q&A On Physical Restraints.

Of the 4 games we played with physical restraints, only 1 game did not provide us a means to release ourselves.

Of note, while this one game absolutely failed, I will add that releasing ourselves from the handcuffs was the first puzzle. We spent mere minutes in handcuffs and as soon as we were out of the handcuffs, the exit door was unlocked. Nevertheless, we still believe that this is intolerable for an escape room in 2019.

Stylized image of handcuffs.

Data Breakdown

Safety RatingCount of Emergency ExitPercent of Emergency ExitCount of Physical RestraintsPercent of Physical Restraints
A+12879.50%15797.52%
A2716.77%10.62%
B63.73%21.24%
F00.00%10.62%
Total161100.00%161100.00%

*Some of the games we played in 2019 were situated such that they didn’t warrant a typical safety rating.

Data Bias

While this is a substantial dataset, it isn’t all-encompassing. We played a lot of escape rooms in 2019, but we didn’t play every escape room. (In fact, in some past years, we’ve played significantly more.) As noted above, this is a non-scientific study without random sampling.

This data is biased by where we played. We played mostly in the United States. During 2019, we played in 14 states, playing the most games in Colorado and Texas. We played in 4 other countries: Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany, and the Netherlands.

When we travel, we put an emphasis on playing amazing and unusual games. We play escape rooms that are recommended by the community of escape room players. These tend to be escape games that are crafted with thought and care, which encompasses not only the gameplay and aesthetic, but also other aspects of design including safety.

A red sign reads "Exit" glowing in the darkness.

Conclusion

The overwhelming majority of escape rooms are safe for players. In all of 2019, with the exception of a few minutes at the start of one game, we were always able to free ourselves.

Anecdotally, I can add that in most games, we noticed emergency exit signage within the games, and before the game began we were briefed on how to exit the game in the event of an emergency.

We spent a lot of time in escape rooms and we always felt safe.

2 thoughts on “Escape Room Safety Report 2019

  1. It is interesting comparing your North American experiences with the Escape Room Enthusiast 2019 results where 8‰ of enthusiasts said common practice in their region was that there was no way to escape in an emergency and 39% said they would need outside help to escape – an F on your scale.

    1. I think memory is a tricky thing to account for, and that’s what’s behind this difference. When a lot of enthusiasts started playing, they were locked in these games, and that’s what they remember. Most enthusiasts don’t actively listen to the game briefings anymore and they won’t have realized this has changed. When we started keeping records, we assumed that push-to-exit buttons were the industry standard. If you’d asked us a few weeks ago – before we actually ran the numbers for this piece – we would have said that most escape rooms used push-to-exit in 2019, because that’s what we remembered most. It turned out that almost 80% had no locks at all. We had to actively take note in each game to get the data, and then our data even surprised us!

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