Inflatable houses can be dangerous even in light winds, study finds

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Bouncy houses, inflatable structures that have long been a staple of children’s birthday parties and festivities around the world, may be more dangerous than many parents realize, according to a new study.

The research, the first of its kind, tracks wind-related kickback incidents as well as nearby weather conditions when those incidents occurred, said John Knox, professor of geography and faculty member of the Atmospheric Science Program at the University. of Georgia and the study. main author.

“Ultimately, bouncing houses can topple, roll, or be lifted into the air by mild winds,” Knox said, “and that often happens during what most people would call ‘good weather.’ ”

At least 28 people have died and 479 others have been injured in 132 wind-related incidents since 2000, according to Knox – an estimate he and his team of researchers believe is likely an undercount.

In 80 of the wind-related cases, the authors were able to identify a clear cause of the incident: for example, a thug”dust devil” spinning through the Southwest desert, a powerful cold front bringing with it a strong gust of wind or a pop-up thunderstorm generating dangerous winds just overhead.

“When the winds get too strong, these bouncy houses not only have to be evacuated but also deflated,” said Thomas Gill, second author of the paper and professor of environmental science at the University of Texas at El Paso. UGA today. “There have been instances where a bouncy house was empty, but it exploded and hit a passerby.”

But in just under half of the incidents recorded, there was no abnormal danger and the winds observed locally were below 25 mph – the threshold at which the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) advises against using bouncy houses.

This speed is also well below the National Weather Service’s criteria for a strong wind warning, and it generally does not match meet the criteria for a strong wind advisory.

More than a third of incidents occurred when nearby wind speeds were between zero and 20 miles per hour, although Knox warned that high winds could be very localized if, for example, they were driven by a heck of dust, small whirlpools usually powered by hot air which sometimes produces winds of over 60 mph.

Inflatable house regulations vary from state to state, with 19 states relying on ASTM guidelines. 17 additional states do not have guidelines for the use of inflatables.

“Because of this lack of consistency, it is important that parents pay careful attention to how bouncy houses should be used and operated, whether at home for birthday parties, or at a school carnival, or somewhere else,” Knox said.

Knox and his team found that many of the casualties they identified could have been avoided if the bouncy houses had been properly anchored to the ground by a professional, as recommended by ASTM.

The ASTM also recommends that inflatable houses be operated by professionals who constantly monitor the weather in case they need to be evacuated and deflated.

The death of a bouncy house in the UK highlights the danger of inflatables and wind

According to database built by the Knox research team, the last fatal inflatable house incident in the United States occurred in July 2019, when winds below 25 mph launched a theater in the air before crashing into power lines while the children were still inside. A 9-year-old child was killed and two other children were seriously injured.

The deadliest bounce house incident on record happened in the Australian state of Tasmania last December. Six children were killed and three others injured after a gust of wind sent the inflatable structure more than 30 feet into the air. Bouncy houses in Australia are must be anchored on the ground and regularly inspected, although it is not clear if the guidelines were followed in this case, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corp.

Wind-related injuries, while tragic and often more serious, represent only a small fraction of rebound-related injuries.

In the United States alone, more than 10,000 people visit the emergency room each year for injuries related to bouncy castles, according to Knox. A published study in the journal Pediatrics in 2012 found that injury rates in inflatable amusement devices in the United States increased 15-fold between 1995 and 2010.

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