First of all, Inflatables were not as available as they are now 10-15 years ago. Over the last 15 years, the number of companies that supply these products has grown to the point where you can spend an entire day shopping different companies trying to find the biggest bouncy for the cheapest price. So as the availability and increase of use have gone up, so has the injury rates.
Shopping for the cheapest product is usually a great practice when you are comparing identical items. For example, If you were looking to buy a bottle of perfume and wanted to find a great deal, It's very easy to find the best deal on a specific brand in a sealed box. But when searching for an inflatable its not that easy, its much like shopping for a great deal on a mattress. Its almost impossible to find an exact match from one retailer to the next.
There are many things to consider when searching for an inflatable and ensuring the safety of all the users should be the first concern. Using a company that is cutting costs can increase the likelihood of an injury. Here are a few things to consider in your search:
- How old are the units the company is offering? Inflatable manufacturing companies continually improve the safety features of their inflatables. A bounce house that's 10-15 years old, is probably not as safe as one that's only 2 years old. There have been many improvements to the anchoring systems, and to the entrances protecting the users from accidentally falling out of the inflatable through the entrance door. On the other hand, that's not to say an older unit is not safe if its been properly maintained. Older units can also be updated with more current safety features. So if you find a company that is cutting corners in any of the other areas listed below, you can rest assured they are also skimping in this area.
- Are the bounce houses inspected annually by a licensed inspector? Many states require all inflatable rides to be inspected on an annual basis. In Texas, this is a requirement and you can and should ask to see a copy of the inspection certificate from the business your'e considering to rent from. Each unit will have its serial number on the inspection certificate and its very easy to match it up to the inflatable you're renting.
- Is the company fully insured? Again, it's a state requirement to have liability insurance. Ask to see a copy of the insurance certificate prior to renting from any company.
- Are the inflatables fully cleaned and inspected between each use? Inflatables are used very hard. The kids bounce off the sides and put stress on the seams every time they are used. Therefore, all units should be inspected and cleaned between each use to ensure they remain safe to use for the next customer. A ripped or weak seam could be a safety hazard if left in disrepair.
- How does the company secure the inflatable? It's very important an inflatable is fully secured prior to use. The best method to secure an inflatable is stakes. Stakes should be installed at every tether point and should be at least 18" long Sand bags, water bags, or water tanks are other options and should only be used as the last option.
- Does the company go over all the safety guidelines with you after the product is installed? Ask for a copy of the safety guidelines prior to committing to the company. And make sure you completely understand all the safety rules before they leave.
- Are the installers adequately trained? While not required, there are certification program companies they can use to ensure their installers are fully trained to install all types of inflatables. Look for the SIOTO badge on their site and verify their training is up to date by looking for them here. Companies that take this extra step will be listed here showing their certification level.
Companies that do not follow these guidelines could be supplying inferior and unsafe products which could increase your chance of injury. Companies that are uninsured and not getting yearly inspections are cutting costs and operating illegally and should never be used just to save a few bucks. If one of your guests were injured while using an uninsured product you arranged rental of, you may also become liable for any medical costs. It's actually very easy to verify the company your considering is legit. Just ask for the documents listed above.
Once you have made your decision and the inflatable has been delivered and installed it is very important to follow the safety guidelines the installer went over with you. One of the most important things to remember is to not view the inflatable as a baby sitter. You should never leave a group of children unattended because that is typically when an injury will happen. I have seen it time and time again where a child will take a flying leap from the top of a slide and land at the base. An Inflatable to a child must look like a huge pillow but they are actually quite firm. Taking a flying leap and falling several feet can hurt anyone and should never be allowed.
A few other things to consider are the weight and rider limits for the inflatable you have. Each inflatable is different and you need to know the limits of your inflatable. These limits along with general safety guidelines are typically displayed on the side of all inflatables. So know the limits well. Its also important to know the weather limitations. Inflatables should never be used in heavy winds or rain. When wind gusts reach 15-20 miles per hour, with 25 mph being the absolute limit, the unit should be shut down and not used. And those numbers are under the assumption the inflatable has been properly secured. If the inflatable has been installed on asphalt using sand bags, 20 mph gusts would be your absolute limit.
So do your research and only do business with a company that is following the rules. Companies that are not cutting corners have the customers best interests in mind. They are committed to providing a safe, clean, and fun experience for you, and your children. They are not in it just to make as much as they can because doing things the right way, can cost a lot of money. Which is why a company that follows the rules may charge a few extra bucks for that inflatable.