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Inflatable bounce houses bring fun but can be dangerouscomment (0)

June 30, 2011

By Anna Swindle

With summer — and Vacation Bible School season — in full swing, inflatable bounce houses are a common sight on church lawns. They can be a fun addition to a church activity.

However, proper safety precautions should be taken to ensure that the fun doesn’t turn into an injury. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, more than 4,000 emergency room visits a year in the United States are linked to these inflatable structures.

Jim Swedenburg, director of the office of Cooperative Program and stewardship development for the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions, has seen several articles recently that drew his attention to the potential safety risks of inflatables.

“They’ve just popped up as a large blip on the radar within the past three to four months,” Swedenburg said.

“I haven’t heard much concern yet from churches, but they’re probably not aware of the risks.”

He’s aware because part of his job is to monitor legal issues that could affect Alabama Baptists.

Brotherhood Mutual, a company that insures churches and related ministries, recently posted an article on its website (www.brotherhoodmutual.com) that highlights risks associated with these structures as well as tips to keep users safe.

It advises churches planning to use an inflatable to
• Contact your insurance company prior to renting the structure to learn about your church’s liability policy.

• Rent equipment from a reputable company with experienced workers, and get written instructions on how to operate it as well as written proof of the company’s liability insurance.

• If possible, have the rental company handle the set up and operation of the equipment.

• Ask an attorney to review any contract before you sign on behalf of your church.

Chris Thompson of Daphne-based Eastern Shore Inflatables added a few more tips: Avoid placing the inflatable near trees or electrical wires, secure the anchors according to the instructions and don’t allow people to use it during bad weather or strong wind.

“Also try to employ the two-person rule, if possible,” Swedenburg added.

“When you’re working with minors, it’s best to have at least two people supervising an event at any given time.”

Thompson echoed his sentiments about adult supervision.

“Inflatables are not kid sitters,” Thompson said. “It is not good enough to simply have adults present.

“They should be actively monitoring kids while they play on the inflatables.”

Church Mutual Insurance Company, which has received claims over the years involving injuries from inflatables used at church functions, recommends being careful of the age and number of children allowed in a structure.

“Church Mutual recommends that rules be established and followed to address bounce houses that are age appropriate for children using them,” Risk Control Manager Ed Steele said.

“Also a rule should be established to limit the maximum number of children allowed within or on a bounce device during a play session.”  

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