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Bounce House Safety!
Learn how to reduce the risks of injury to your child.

The original article that was posted here beginning in 1998, was written in response to one family's experience. This article has been replaced by the following article, which was added online on September 22, 2005. Written by the same author, the only difference is that this article provides more informed and educated information about bounce houses and safety issues. This article also provides more helpful and reasonable safety tips.

In April, 1998, my family and I attended a city-run festival where they had many activities for children, including a bounce house. Despite any reservations we had, we allowed our 2 year old daughter to join other children inside a bounce house. In a split second, my daughter went from happily jumping up and down, to an ambulance ride to the emergency room. What had happened? While enjoying the bounce house, my child had bounced and landed sitting on the bottom. She wasn't aware of the other child who had jumped on her back and bent her forward. She must have gotten the wind knocked out of her, because she just fell over. It was at that moment that I thought my child's life was over. Thankfully, my daughter survived her accident with just some muscle bruising around her abdomen. It was definitely one of the worst experiences of my life -- I really thought I would lose my child that day.

What happened to my daughter was an accident -- no one could have predicted it, not even a safety conscience parent such as myself. Shortly after, I set out to inform other parents on how they can keep their children safe in bounce houses in the article titled, "Bounce House Beware!" The safety tips included with the original article developed as a result of my child's accident.

After having the article online for many years, I was informed that some readers may have gotten the idea that all bounce houses are unsafe. Some parents may have avoided bounce houses due to the fear that something might happen to their child. But not all bounce houses are unsafe. How do I know this? For one, my daughter, now much older, has safely enjoyed bounce houses on many occasions. Now this article isn't saying that accidents don't happen...they may. Whether you allow your child to go in a bounce house rented by the city, or a privately-rented bounce house, there are certain rules to follow in order to help provide your child with a safe bounce house experience...and it takes everyone involved to provide that to them.

Below are some safety tips and information from Matthew Mark of the Safe Inflatable Operators Training Organization:

Our organization has taken upon itself to start a campaign to educate both consumers and operators of inflatables in order to secure a safe enjoyable rental experience which is the responsibility of both operator AND consumer alike. Before you even commit to an operator you need to ask a few basic questions:

  1. Are they insured and will they supply a copy of the insurance certificate?
  2. Are they trained/experienced in inflatable operations?
  3. What safety measures do they provide YOU with?

Price should not even be a consideration!

After the operator arrives, they should do the following and it is your job to pay attention to help make sure its done properly.
  1. A tarp should be placed on the ground to protect the bottom of the unit.
  2. The unit should be staked down or heavily weighted down with ground weights or sandbags.
  3. When the unit is inflated make sure there are no rips or holes visible.
  4. Make sure the unit is fully inflated and not sagging anywhere.
  5. The operator MUST cover all operating and safety procedures verbally, and should leave printed instructions as well.

    It is your responsibility to ask questions if you do not understand anything particular.

After the operator leaves, you should always:
  1. Attend the unit at all times.
  2. Keep children age 3 and under OUT of the unit.
  3. Make sure all childen are grouped according to SIZE.
  4. DO NOT exceed the maximum ride capacity at any time.
  5. Perform safety checks of the equipment frequently. Operators will show you how.
  6. Turn the unit off during inclement weather or high winds.
  7. Seek medical attention for ALL injuries IF they ocur.
  8. Follow ALL posted safety rules at all times.

These simple tips will help keep you safe and allow you to enjoy the rental of your inflatable. Remember, safety first, safety always! Safety is everyone's job!


Below are "Questions to Ask and Things to Consider When Choosing a Moonwalk Rental Company," Reprinted courtesy of the National Moonwalk Rental Directory:

It's easy to pick a moonwalk company based on price alone - you can always go through the phone book and choose the lowest cost provider in your area. But is that the best thing for your party?

There are a number of factors to consider when choosing a moonwalk rental company for your event that you may not even realize! Here are a few things to ask when you start to comparison shop:

Insurance

The first thing you should find out from a prospective rental company is whether or not they are insured. Moonwalk rental insurance covers liability in case of an accident where the moonwalk company is at fault. It does not typically cover injuries or minor accidents that happen while the moonwalk is under your supervision. So why should you care?

A company that has made the effort to get insurance has made a commitment to a safe operation. It shows longevity (fly-by-night companies don't bother with the expense of insurance) and a concern both for your safety and the long-term success of their own company.

In some states (but not all) insurance is required by state regulations. An inflatable rental company operating without insurance is operating illegally in those states. In states without regulations, inflatable operators should still be insured.

Delivery

Does your prospective rental company offer delivery? Is there an additional charge?

Moonwalks are heavy, bulky, and awkward to move and setup. They require proper securing, either with stakes or sandbags and there may be state-regulated minimum requirements on the size of the stakes or the weight of the sandbags. If you are picking up the moonwalk yourself, be sure the operator reviews safety and setup instructions with you to ensure that you have a safe and fun experience with your moonwalk.

In most areas, you can find companies with delivery included or for a small additional charge. It's not just about the money or convenience, but the safety of your children and their guests. Consider having a professional set up your inflatable bounce house or slide for your own peace of mind.

Cleanliness

Bounce houses get really dirty - they are outside in all types if weather! You will typically find do-it-yourself places or inexpensive operators don't take the time to properly clean and sanitize the bounce, although some do. Ask about their cleaning policies.

Sanitize? Yes - this is important. Bounces are active places full of little people bouncing against the floors, walls, and pillars in hot conditions- often face first and loving it! You want to feel secure that the surfaces they are coming in contact with are clean and germ-free.

Companies that properly clean and sanitize their inflatable units ensure that germs don't spread from one party to the next, not to mention the fact that your party-goers won't go home with black socks!

Attended vs Unattended

Many companies will have an attendant who will stay for the duration of your party and supervise the moonbounce- often it's included in the fee quoted. Be sure to ask about an attendant if the rental fee seems high for your area- it could be those extra man-hours that drive the price up but as many event-organizers will tell you it's well worth it!

If the company doesn't offer attended rentals or you aren't interested in paying the extra fees, make sure the delivery company reviews operating and safety procedures with you before they leave; things like what to do if it rains or gets windy, what to do if the power goes out, how many kids are allowed at a time, etc. Moonbounces are fun and safe, but it's best to be prepared in case the weather changes or anything else unexpected happens.

Deposits

Deposits vary by area - in highly competitive areas, you may not be required to send in a deposit but in most areas of the country rental companies do require a deposit of some sort - a credit card number or a mailed deposit. This ensures the equipment you want is reserved for the date and time you requested.

Find out under what conditions your deposit is refundable. How long do you have to cancel? How are weather cancellations handled? What about refunds or re-scheduling?

While we want to believe our party will go off smoothly, reality is that the weather may not cooperate or the birthday child may be sick, or any of a number of things can happen that might cause you to cancel or reschedule. If a deposit is required, make sure you get it in on time or you may lose your reservation!

Power

Typically, if you rent a moonwalk, you are expected to provide an electrical outlet. Be sure to test outdoor outlets as they are likely to go bad and if you don't use them often, you may not be aware they don't work until time for setup! Plug a hair dryer into the outlet and let it run at high a few minutes to test.

For events that aren't near an electrical source, you'll need a generator. Many rental companies have them or can get them for you- if not you can pick one up yourself at a local rental store. Make sure you know how to operate it and how long a tank of gas will last if you are doing it yourself.

Setup Area

Inflatables can't be set up on a slope. It's just not safe. You'll need a relatively flat area at least 5' bigger all around than the size of the inflatable. It's best to make sure you have enough room ahead of time by measuring or at least walking off the area so that you don't have to rearrange your plans at the last minute.

Check for bushes or tree branches in the way and make sure there are no power lines or overhanging branches overhead.

Clear the area of rocks, twigs, pinecones, or other obstructions and check for fireant hills, dog leave-behinds, or anything else that might be in the way.

Do you have an irrigation system? Let your moonwalk rental company know that unfront. They may choose to secure the unit with sandbags instead of stakes if you are unsure where the irrigation lines are.

Have Fun

Moonwalks are impressive, exciting, and fun! Your house or business will be the center of attention when the moonbounce is up and running, so enjoy it and get lots of pictures of those little ones having the time of their lives. They'll always remember it and so will you.


Below are my own personal safety tips, revised from the original article written in 1998:
  • Make sure to put your child in with other children his/her size.
  • Don't let your child go in if there are too many children already inside.
  • Always keep an eye on your child. Seconds will count if they get injured.
  • Remove your child if they get tired. A sitting child is more at risk at getting jumped on by another child.
  • Be aware of all the bounce house safety rules. Trust your instincts if you believe your child is not ready to join in.
  • In any emergency situation, it is helpful to be trained in CPR and first aid. Consider taking a course to be prepared.
  • Make sure someone is ALWAYS supervising the children. If a bounce house ever does collapse, be sure to remove all the children immediately.

What are the Statistics? Are Bounce Houses Safe?

To answer this question, we asked Tammie Mason, of Playnjump, and member of the Safe Inflatable Operators Training Organization. Tammie was kind enough to provide us with the results of her research that was gathered in 2004. "The Consumer Product Safety Commission's (CPSC) National Electronic Injury Surveillance System, NEISS, reported a total of 459 cases for ALL amusement attractions in 2002, 447 in 2003, and 489 in 2004." The following is a very brief summary of Tammie's research, broken down into 3 categories:

CPSC Reports definitely associated with an inflatable ride:
  • Year 2002...27
  • Year 2003...60

CPSC Reports probably associated with inflatable ride:
  • Year 2002...29
  • Year 2003...40

CPSC Reports possibly associated with inflatable ride:
  • Year 2002...84
  • Year 2003...48

NEISS is a national probability sample of hospitals in the U.S. and its territories. Patient information is collected from each NEISS hospital for every emergency visit involving an injury associated with consumer products. From this sample, the total number of product-related injuries treated in hospital emergency rooms nationwide can be estimated. Use Internet Explorer to Query the system.


According to information that we found via Internet news articles, and cited from the Consumer Product Safety Commission, there were an estimated 2,500 injuries treated in hospital emergency rooms in 2002. These injuries resulted from problems with inflatable rides, slides, and bounce houses. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, inflatable rides accounted for an estimated 4,300 injuries requiring hospital emergency room visits in 2003, the most recent year for which statistics are available. Back in 1997, there were only 1,300 injuries.


Nationwide inflatable-ride injury estimates: from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission:

1997....1,300
1998....1,600
1999....2,200
2000....2,000
2001....2,300
2002....3,600
2003....4,300
2004....4,900


As there are two sides to every story, and to be sure we included all sides of this issue, we chose to list some information regarding inflatable accidents. We found the following, from Saferparks:
  • Inflatables are not subject to safety regulation in many states.

  • Blow-overs and collapses due to equipment failure or improper setup can, and do, cause catastrophic accidents.

  • Inadequate supervision increases the danger of broken bones and dislocations. Allowing younger children to jump with older children is the most common safety hazard cited by safety officials.

  • Inflatable attractions are exempt from safety oversight in many states, including California and Florida.


In addition...we've listed the following articles that involve some type of inflatable, and discuss accidents, injuries and tips:


What type of accidents can occur in an inflatable?

According to the Consumer Products Safety Commission, the following is a list of common hazards in inflatable amusement attraction-related incidents:
  • Collision of one person with another, especially a larger child with a smaller one, when several children are jumping or sliding at the same time.

  • Falling out of a jumping balloon or off an inflatable slide onto a hard object outside the attraction device.

  • Catching a foot or other appendage in some part of the attraction while jumping.

  • Jumping or sliding head down or attempting flips with a resulting head or neck injury.

  • Wind gusts unexpectedly blowing over an inadequately secured inflatable attraction thereby throwing children onto the ground or other objects.

  • Rapid deflation of an inflatable slide upon fan power loss causing children to fall onto the ground or other object.


In conclusion...

We encourage you to be an informed consumer when it comes to the use of bounce houses. They can be a fun activity for children, but accidents can happen if safety measures are not fully followed. It would be negligent of us to totally ignore the possibility of any type of accident. So, do your homework and investigate first, and always supervise children!



Informative links relating to this article:


This article is linked from a 2-27-08 ABC Television News Article (KGO-TV SAN FRANCISCO, CA) titled, Fatal fun: Inflatable bounce houses.

Click here to read other articles by MyParenTime.com.

Copyright My ParenTime's Family Community. "Questions to Ask and Things to Consider When Choosing a Moonwalk Rental Company," Copyright Moonwalk Rental Directory, reprinted with permission.




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