Inflatable bounce houses: Not all are created equal

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INDIANAPOLIS – Inflatable bounce houses are popular with parents and kids alike. Just this week, we told you about a tragedy that unfolded when one of those houses lifted up in New York with three young children inside.

Two boys, ages five and six, were seriously hurt when they fell out of the house 15 feet in the air. Witnesses said the parents did everything the instructions on the inflatable house told them to do. One boy is in a medically induced coma with a head injury, and the other has two broken arms and several broken facial bones. Police told authorities in New York the house broke loose from plastic stakes holding it to the ground.

The story hits home for lots of parents, who’ve rented or purchased them for their kids. But those who rent out professional units tell FOX59 not all bounce houses are created equal, and parents need to know the difference.

For Randy Robinson, bounce houses are his business.

“Every inflatable that we carry is a commercial-grade inflatable,” he said. “We don’t deliver if there’s wind or rain, if we feel a location is unsafe, we move it.”

He rents out inflatables professionally for parties or celebrations. He started his Noblesville business with five inflatables three years ago and now has fifteen.

“What we don’t want to happen is families associating those store-bought units with the commercial quality units you can get from a reputable rental company,” he said.

Robinson said rented inflatables are made of vinyl. His smallest one weighs 250 pounds by his estimate when blown up. He set it up for us, along with a store-bought unit that he said weighs about fifty pounds.

It’s easy to see why the smaller one blew away. It’s held down by plastic stakes, the larger commercial-grade one is held down with hardened steel.

“They’re not built like the commercial units are. There is a time and a place for those smaller units, but it’s not out in the backyard when you have ten to twenty mile-per-hour wind gusts,” said Robinson.

He said whatever unit you use, the eyes of those supervising are key.

“The main safety feature of any inflatable is the parents, having adult supervision at all times,” said Robinson.

It’s one way to prevent a harrowing accident states away that’s still stumping parents.

“I don’t quite understand how two kids propel in the air,” said Tracy Lowe of Carmel.

It is a busy time of year for bounce house rentals.

FOX59 checked with the Better Business Bureau. The agency advises looking up any company you’re considering renting from. They also say you should ask about the company’s insurance and safety history.

A nationwide study showed the number of inflatable-related injuries rose 1,500% between 1995 and 2010, though researchers attributed part of the increase to growing popularity.

Indiana doesn’t have regulations in place for the inflatable business.

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