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June 6, 2011 / Brett Cohrs

The Bane of Nonprofit Insurance: The Bounce House

Over the weekend, no doubt you saw one of many news media outlets’ story about the bounce house that took flight.  Apparently there were three that took flight in a kind of domino chain reaction.

In addition to loathing bounce houses because I’m an insurance agent, I also prefer they be outlawed because I’m a father of three: a four year old little girl and two and a half year old twin boys.  It’s nearly impossible to drive by a fall, spring, or summer festival and not have your kids whining to stop and jump around in one of those monstrosities.

They’re so beautiful and sweet and fun looking, yet they each should have a sign outside of them listing the dates and types of bones broken by unfortunate lads and lasses who dared shed shoes to climb in.

Normally, I just assume the following as being major risks of hopping around in a bouncy castle:

  • Basic head-butts
  • Head to knees
  • Knee to elbow
  • Elbow to face.
  • 11 yr old jumping around with 2 yr olds.
  • 11 yr olds having imbibed 4 Mountain Dews, then jumping around with 3 more 11 yr olds while my twin boys try to get out but can’t find their balance.
  • Etc.

Now we have to add:

  • Tethers not staked into the ground well enough.
  • Tethers staked per requirements, but mother nature can blow some serious wind.
  • Bounce houses flying through the air knocking other houses of tethers and also flying through air.
  • Not even playing in bounce house while a bounce house flies through the air and plows over your picnic basket and camping chairs.

If you are a nonprofit or social service that has fundraisers that include bouncehouses, make sure to confirm with your insurance carrier whether your liability insurance will cover you for accidents that take place as a result of the operation of the inflatables.

Policies respond in different ways:

  • They explicitly exclude bounce houses and other inflatables.
  • They require you to use an insured bounce house provider with appropriate supervision, naming your organization as additional insured.
  • They might need to rate your policy and charge per bounce house.
  • You might end up just having to assume the risk.

The most disconcerting thing about these devices is that they often have no supervision.  As I alluded to above, I’ve allowed my kids to get in those things, and five minutes later, sugar-highed tweens pile in and endanger themselves and others.

Since many of these festivals take place in the fall, you know, when it’s blustery, it’s a good thing to remember that the bounce houses can blow away like Pooh and Piglet

The takeaways:

  • Does your organization want to add the exposure?
  • How does your insurance respond to this risk?
  • What kind of provider are you using? (a dude with a rolled up inflatable in his basement or an insured, professional outfit that can provide supervision)

Sorry to be such a downer, but I couldn’t help but bring it up in light of the media exposure.

Enjoy your festivals, but please be careful!


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