Hello again; Today, I want to address the recent story about three kids in New York who were injured when the bounce house they were playing in took flight. I want to use this occasion to instruct people on the safe operation of a bounce house. A children’s party should be a happy event.

Some facts

The bounce house in question was a little tyke’s toy model purchased by one of the parents living in the apartment complex where it had ben set up. They had used the unit several times with no incidents. However, the unit appears to have ben staked down with six inch plastic stakes that were insufficient for the weather conditions they had on that day. Th stakes generally used for a commercial inflatable are 18 inches long and made out of strong metal. They are routinely driven at least half way into the ground, but the freak winds experienced on that day may have still resulted in the moonwalk becoming airborne.

Types of rental companies

There are two basic types of inflatable rental companies. There are full service and self service. In general the self service bounce house rentals are operated out of a party planning store and offer only bounce houses. They will let you pick up the inflatable and trust you to operate it safely and then return it when you are through. The other full service party rental companies will generally offer all kinds of inflatables such as obstacle courses, competitive games, and slides both wet and dry. They will insist on delivering the units to your location or an approved park location, setting them up, and instructing you on the proper use of their equipment. They may even insist on leaving at least one person to supervise the party. Obviously having the items delivered to your home means they will be more expensive to rent. I know in this tight economy everyone is trying to save money wherever they can, but I would strongly encourage you to rent from professionals who will know how to avoid most potential problems.

Should you own a bounce house

Many of you have probably thought about how you could save a lot of money if you just bought your own bounce house. I’m sure that often families or groups of neighbors have thought about pooling their money and buying one to share. I’m not going to tell you not to. I’m just going to give you a few things to think about. And later I’ll give you a safety check list. If you are going to buy one, then first check with your home owner’s association or land lord to make sure that it will not violate any contractual agreements. Next, check to see what your insurance policy says about injuries that occur on your property or at your residence. Then, be sure to purchase a commercial grade inflatable to provide the maximum level of safety and enjoyment. You can often purchase these from local bounce house companies who are often eager to sell older units as they are under constant pressure to have the latest themed bouncers. You may also purchase a new one from any of the many inflatable manufacturers. But be sure to purchase items made or sold by companies in your state or province. Companies that sell in your hom country will be more able to insure that your item conforms with all the latest safety regulations. I would be happy to consult with you on the purchase of new or used inflatables.

Safety check list

1. electrical cords

You want to make sure a commercial electrical cord is being used and not some yellow extension cord. Black extension cords are okay. The cord should have a three prong plug and should not be looped, kinked, or stretched too tightly. It should not be nicked or frayed

2. fan motors

The motors have protective cages around the fan blades. You do not want this to be damaged in any way as the blades turn very fast. If the motor makes squalling noises when running, then I would request it be replaced. It may not be a safety issue, but it could effect your over all enjoyment. Noisy fans don’t run as strong, put out as much air, and could be about to fail.

3. Condition of vinyl

I’m especially talking about the vinyl where the tie downs are connected. It doesn’t matter how strong the stakes are or how well they are driven if the material connecting the bounce house to the anchor isn’t solid. You want to check that it isn’t brittle, rotting, or has been patched extnsively. Check to make sure that none of the tie downs have come off. There should be at least one for each corner plus one every so many feet on larger inflatables.

4. Staking it down

As I said earlier most professional bounce house operators use stakes that are at least 18 inches long and drive them at least half way into the ground. However, the way you do this is important. On the corners you want to stretch the tie down at a 45 degree angle from the sides of the inflatable and pull the rope cord or strap tight. You then want to drive the stake at about a 30 to 45 degree angle from straight up and down. In place of stakes, you can use sand bags. And if you want more weight, you can use a metal garbage can filled with water in a pinch. Remember that water weighs over seven pounds per gallon.

5. Proper capacity

Be sure and ask how many children and or adults a unit can safely handle. Find out how large a person is intended to use the unit. Usually this is stated by age, but a better indicator is size or weight. No one likes to be the one that has to tell the kids that someone has to get out of the play house, but its all about having a fun time with no crying kids. I suggest you try to keep the groups to kids of roughly the same size and age. You will have fewer complaints that way.

6. Watch the weather

It is generally ruled that a bounce house should not be in use if there are sustained winds inn excess of 20 miles per hour. The rule varies in the U S, but in the United Kingdom the rule is 25 kilometers per hour or so I have ben told. That would be about 16 mph. This is because the wind will naturally have gusts that are even stronger. I suggest you set someone’s phone to alert you to changing weather conditions. And you should know that most reputable rental companies will not let their equipment go out if there is doubt about the weather. To prove this many now have weather widgets on their websites to advise you.

While I was working on this post yet another story reached me about a moonwalk being carried off by a strong wind. I know these stories are scary to read, and they will usually start debate about new regulations. In most cases the regulations currently on file are sufficient. But nothing the legislatures can pass will ever replace diligent supervision by watchful family and friends. I hope what I have discussed with you here will help you to have a safe and happy experience. I also should point out that most people who run full service party rental companies started out by buying one for their kids. Often it was thought that it would be a fun business for the whole family to take part in. So, you can believe me when I tell you that they don’t want anyone to ever be injured using their equipment. They most likely think of their own kids and grandkids playing on the same bouncers as yours will whenever they make decisions about safety. I know that me and my family thought that way back when we still operated a traveling carnival.

I should address something that came up when we discussed this on my google hangout. It was asked if my occupation as an equipment broker played into my opinions on the over all safety of inflatable bounce houses. I think this is a fare question and one I’m happy to answer. It does no good for me or for the industry to have equipment out there that is dangerous in and of its design. Trust me stories of injuries on amusement rides will often result in new legislation or the threat of it. Parents will become reluctant to send their kids or teens to the carnival or amusement park. Rentals of bounce houses are probably already suffering. And none of this makes it easier for me to sell new or used equipment. In general inflatables are some of the safest devices in the industry. When there are accidents, they are almost always minor. Usually, you are looking at bumps and bruises, sprains, and the occasional chipped tooth or broken bone. Most all of the injuries associated with the use of moonwalks can be avoided with proper adult supervision. And with the thousands of rental companies and the millions of parties where bounce houses are included; the stories of serious injuries like we have had this month are very rare. I wish you all a very happy happy birthday filled with smiles and fond memories for all.

Sharing is caring

If you learned something from this post, then pleas share it with your friends and family. If you still have questions, then pleas feel free to email me via the contact form. I look forward to your comments. I will respond to all of them, and its my usual practice to visit the sites of anyone leaving a comment. Also, don’t forget that comment luv is enabled so you can get up to three back links for each reply to this post. You get a link to your website, another to your twitter profile, and a third to your most recent blog post should you be a blogger.

This is the first time I have ever taken on a subject like this. I hope I did it justice. And I always love hearing from my readers. So, if you have a question about this post or anything else on the blog or the website, then just ask. Also, you don’t have to have a business reason to say hello. If you want to get to know me, ask questions about social media or blogging; or find out more about what its like to be blind and run a business; then I’d love to hear from you too. Thanks for dropping by and take care out there, Max