By Frank M. Scurlock
Q: How can I ensure safe use of my bounce house rentals?
A: Several recent incidents in the U.S. have demonstrated the hazards of improper use of bounce house inflatables. Most of these events were caused by the operator failing to follow the rules and common sense. While inflatables are not amusement rides, as they have no mechanical parts and are participatory in nature, proper use and supervision is required, as should be with all products that involve children. A handful of states require annual permits and registration; however, the best way to achieve safety is to promote the proper use of the product by educating rental companies, consumers and riders.
Inflatables come in sizes ranging from the popular 15-square-foot bounce house to 1,000-square-foot structures that can be 25 feet tall or higher. Just like tent installations, the rental company needs to provide the correct size anchors and consult the manufacturer’s recommendations and owner’s manual for each product.
Inflatables always need to have an attendant/operator present to supervise riders. Most rental companies use a separate rental agreement designed for inflatables that specifies the maximum number of riders for each product, states that the customer is responsible for operation of the product, and includes a “hold harmless” agreement. The customer needs to provide the attendant/operator or the rental company may offer one for an additional fee.
Two of the biggest concerns are wind and overcrowding. Inflatables from a reputable manufacturer have warning labels and safety precautions on the product. These should state the maximum wind speed for use of the product and the recommended capacity.
Proper anchoring can be achieved with ground anchors, water barrels or sand bags on all tie down points, and consideration should be given to the surface where the inflatable will be placed. Wind speed indicators are available from many sources; however, users can easily tell how an inflatable is reacting to wind conditions and should always err on the side of safety.
Space Walk and IFAI created an “Educate before you inflate” poster that is available for free from Space Walk. Safe operation of inflatables, without regulation by outside organizations, is possible with involvement and care of the manufacturer, rental businesses, consumers and riders. Happy and safe renting.