Are Inflatable Bounce Houses Safe? Part 2
The final inspection step is to make sure the inflatable safety signs are secure and legible and the unit is clean. Every inflatable unit manufactured in the USA is required to have a safety sign on it with instructions and a manufactured date. If you get delivered to your event an inflatable without a safety sign, beware of the safety of the unit. Over the years, we have acquired many small inflatable companies. Some of these companies had units without safety signs and manufacturer information. Almost all were purchased from China manufacturers and were not made for commercial use. We found the stitching and anchor points do not withstand commercial use. When small companies are starting out, some of them buy cheap inflatables from China because that is all they can afford. Make sure to ask if what you are ordering is made by a manufacturer in the USA.
Whether a unit is clean or not is usually an area that an average person can see. Many companies will tell you they “clean and disinfect after every rental”. Have you ever wondered how they do this when they pick it up the night before at 10pm in the dark and they are delivering the same unit to you at 8am? It means they open the unit at your event and hope it’s clean. If it is not, it means they inflate it at your event site and clean it there. It is the only way it can be done. Whether the person setting it up has the cleaning supplies and the extra time to clean it is the real issue. Make sure your unit is clean before they leave.
Installation and Inflatable Safety
Anchoring is the most important aspect of the installation for inflatable safety. Stake size and installation of the stake determines the holding strength of your unit. You may ask “Why is anchoring so important?” I am glad you asked. The most dangerous element to using an inflatable outdoors is the wind. So, the manufacturers put anchor points all around the inflatable and determine what size stakes must be used to ensure the inflatable stays secure up to 15 mph. Since the length and width of the stake determines the holding power, it is vital that the stakes supplied by the manufacturers are used or replacement stakes that are longer and thicker. If an inflatable company loses stakes throughout the season, which is common when you are picking up equipment in the dark. It is not uncommon for them to run to the hardware store or a landscape nursery and buy 9” nails. These nails are only half the length and width as a stake. The holding power is only a portion of a stake. When you have kids in an inflatable, you must have the proper stakes.
Here are two video links to show what improper staking allows to an inflatable. We do not show you this to prevent you from renting an inflatable, but to drive the point home of what staking is trying to prevent.
Weather and Inflatable Safety
When most people are considering renting an inflatable bounce house for their event, they check the weather to make sure it is not going to rain. If there is a chance of rain, they may call to inquire about ordering, but always ask “What if it rains?, Can I cancel?” Though rain is an inconvenience to any outdoor event, the rain itself does not pose much of a threat to safety. The threat it does pose is the vinyl surface may become wet and slippery. However, anyone renting an inflatable must be more concerned about the wind speeds. Most manufacturers in the USA will only guarantee the safety of their units up to 15 mph. On the front of every inflatable made in the USA, there is a safety sign posted. On these signs you will find the wind rating. In 12 years, I have never seen a sign that allows more than 15 mph winds. A problem with wind is that it is rarely constant. There is always some level of wind gusts. If weather forecasts say winds are 12 mph, the reality is it is averaging 12 mph and may have wind gusts up to 20 mph. 20 mph winds are higher than the manufacturers allow. The following video shows what can happen when an inflatable is not shut down when winds exceed 15mph.
You might be asking “how did this happen?” None of these inflatables should have been inflated in these high winds. It is the responsibility of the person supervising the ride to shut it down. We will discuss this further in the next section on the responsibilities of the attendant.