In May, an incident involving a bounce house near Albany, New York left many people wondering how a device children play in could be swept up 50 feet into the air.
A gust of wind lifted the bounce house off the ground with three children inside.
“The first thing I thought was that my sister was falling through the sky,” said witness Taylor Seymour.
Seymour’s sister fell out immediately, but the other two children traveled 20 feet high before falling.
A local police chief said doctors put one boy in a medically induced coma, while the other suffered several broken bones. The hospital says both children are in stable condition.
Witnesses also said they saw the bounce house owner stake it down, which raises numerous questions regarding the stakes’ security.
According to Zach Aszklar, who owns Connecticut Bounce House in Wallingford, homeowners need to pay close attention to bounce house safety measures. He said he blows his rental bounce houses up before staking them down. He adds staking bounce houses down correctly is key.
“If you anchor them straight down, they usually pull right out,” said Aszklar. “You want to make sure you put them in at a good 45 degree angle.”
Once Aszklar sets the bounce house up, he reviews safety rules with the homeowner and gives instructions on what to do in case the weather turns.
“We tell them if it starts to get really windy, to unplug the machine,” said Aszklar. “Usually if it’s over 20 miles per hour winds, we won’t rent the machine out that day.”
These safety measures don’t just apply to rentals. In fact, Dr. Brendan Campbell from Connecticut Children's Medical Center says more parents are buying the smaller bounce houses just like the one that was swept up in New York.
“Through the national surveillance system that we have, we have seen an increased number of injuries with the increase in popularity,” said Campbell.
The injuries doctors see are typically collision-based, such as broken bones, they’re becoming more frequent than ever and usually can be avoided, according to Dr. Campbell.
“You have some parents who are putting very small toddler-aged children in these bounce houses who are not developmentally advanced enough to be coordinated enough to stay safe,” said Campbell.
Aside from only allowing similar-aged children in a bounce house at a time, a few simple steps can help make your bounce house safer.
Aszklar suggests homeowners should not set one up on soft ground, such as mud or sand. Also, don’t set one up on a windy or rainy day, and make sure you stake it down correctly.
“The spikes they give you should be good enough for the equipment,” said Aszklar.
Those spikes are typically plastic and are about nine inches long. However you can buy bigger, more durable stakes at a hardware store for less than $5.
If you’re renting a bounce house, make sure the company you are renting from has a good reputation. Ask if they have insurance, but be aware, rental companies aren’t regulated in Connecticut, so they don’t need liability insurance.
You can also check to see if anyone has filed a complaint through the Better Business Bureau or the Department of Consumer Protection.
As added foresight, keep in mind not all rental companies set up the bounce house for you. Make sure you ask for help if you’re not confident you can set one up by yourself.
The rental bounce houses weigh anywhere from 200-600 pounds.