Leaving Nothing to Chance
September 11, 2012
Advice for Best Inflatables Safety Practices
In the last decade, inflatable amusements have become a staple in the party rental industry. Many small companies that began as part-time endeavors have blossomed into full-time operations that book dozens of clients per month. As the industry has grown in popularity, the inflatables have grown in design, size and variety.
Darren Morizet started Partytime Rentals in his garage. Now, the Wappingers Falls, N.Y.-based company is a full-service party rental enterprise that has in its inventory more than 100 inflatables.
“I underestimated the rental industry,” Morizet noted. “We have grown even in a down economy because memories don’t stop occurring, and our business helps build those memories.”
Partytime Rentals services and maintains all their equipment and also services the equipment of small competitors as well. The company, which operates throughout the year, books about 3,000 events annually with inflatable rentals accounting for about 1,500 to 2,000 of those bookings.
“The inflatable industry has definitely transformed over the last decade. When I first got into inflatables, there were accidents, and the bouncers were not monitored, but now manufacturers and insurance companies pay close attention to these products,” Morizet said.
Partytime Rentals has never had an accident and Morizet believes it is a combination of his stringent safety practices and a lot of luck as well.
There has been an increase in safety features in inflatables especially when it comes to tying down the inflatables and the use of the electric blowers.
“Some competitors and insurance companies say I go over the top, but any time I rent out any kind of slide or water attraction that is 18-feet or higher or has a pool or a technical component, I insist there has to be an attendant on site at all times. I think it is better for the customer too. We can make sure kids are engaged and playing correctly and the adults do not have to be on duty. They can enjoy themselves as well. “
Companies that drop off inflatables without even inflating them on the event’s site is Morizet’s biggest pet peeve with the industry.
“Customers are not experts in stakes and which ones work best for an inflatable. Sometimes these rental companies do not supply the correct stakes nor do they give instructions on inflating or deflating safely,” he noted. “If we are not going to have an attendant at an event, we have an in-person briefing plus we hand over to our customers our own operations manual, which has the manufacturer’s printed instructions too. If we want to provide equipment that goes beyond what the manufacturer suggests, we do that too.”
In the future, Morizet would love to see more interactive inflatables with electronics embedded in the design. More creative design depends upon each manufacturer. Right now, 90 percent of the products that Morizet carries are American made.
“We go for the American products because we know that when our catalog says we carry or will carry something, it will be available. Sometimes, we have bought products from other countries and put it in our catalog thinking it will be available when they promised, and it never arrives. But sometimes, because the inflatable is very popular, we have to take the risk.”
As Director of Operations for Dougherty’s Party Services in Syracuse, N.Y., Taier-Chad Parsnow oversees the renting of everything from costumes to inflatables for both small and big events. The company, which is the largest costumer in central New York, is in the process of establishing a permanent facility to hold events on site as well.
“For the inflatables side of the company, we offer mostly a delivery service right now, but we are strict about safety,” explained Parsnow. “We go beyond manufacturer’s recommendations. We take great pride in our company and want everything right for our customers.”
Dougherty’s performs a three- point inspection for all inflatables, which includes making sure an inflatable is well secured. If it is at a venue where stakes cannot be used, Dougherty’s staff provides sandbags to ensure the inflatable remains secure. Dougherty’s also checks on the grounding for the blower for every event.
“If the outlets are not properly grounded, we have a device that allows us to adapt non-groundable outlet into a groundable one,” Parsnow noted. “And if that is not a possibility we will provide a generator.
Parsnow or his staff makes sure there is enough clearance around the inflatable. “We have to have enough space between the inflatable and trees or wires.”
While Dougherty’s does book some indoor winter events, the majority of its bookings take place between April and October.
“We cover a wide range of events from the very small to the very large. We average about 135 events per month,” Parsnow said. “Honestly, it is just as much fun for us to do a small party as it is to do a big party or event where we deliver 20 bouncers. We provide the same service no matter what size event someone has, and to us everyone is equally important.”
Cassie and John Joslin have owned Bouncin’ Around Long Island in East Meadow, N.Y., for about a year. The company, which books about 12-15 events per month, operates all year long and rents out 10 inflatables at a variety of venues, from summer camps to churches to block parties.
“At the majority of our events, we leave attendants there,” said Cassie Joslin. “We know we can deliver the inflatable and just do a briefing with the party hosts, but we feel better knowing we have people on site.”
Bouncin’ Around Long Island has competition in their geographical area, but the Joslins combat that by going the extra distance in customer service.
“We have already carved out a good niche with our inflatables. We clean and sanitize the bouncers after each event. As of now, we have not had much interaction with manufacturers about suggestions for designs because we bought everything from the previous owner, but in the future and as we grow and as we buy more inflatables, that interaction will grow.”
Parties, Picnics & Promotions of Brewerton, N.Y., is known as a full-service operation where customers can rent anything from inflatable bouncers to casino equipment to tents, swimming pools and hot tubs.
“Yes, anything that will make a party or event complete, we have,” said Owner Garry Thompson, who has owned the company for 20 years.
While most of the rental company runs all year long, the inflatable arm operates spring into summer. Parties, Picnics & Promotions rents out inflatables for small parties as well as large corporate and community events.
“We provide customers with verbal and written instructions for each inflatable,” Thompson said. “However, if they want an attendant there, we will provide one. In our industry, if an attendant is not there and an accident occurs, it is on the person holding the event. If an accident occurs while one of our attendants is present, it is on us.”
Thompson was the first person in the Syracuse area to offer an inflatable. His Big Moon Walk proved popular and more companies began to sprout up. Most of his inflatables were at one time manufactured in Florida or California, but now many come from China.
“China is inevitable but I do look for companies that use American materials because those inflatables are higher quality and there is more of an emphasis on safety.”
Thompson believes that safety has become a bigger issue with all companies over the last few years with manufacturers paying attention to the concerns of operators.
“Some manufacturers have introduced extra loops at the top to help anchor the inflatable. Before, the loops were just anchored at the base. Another change has been with the blowers,” he noted. “They are now plastic, which if someone slips onto the blower, there is little danger of being hurt. The new blowers are also GFI and more quiet, which adds to the overall experience of the bouncer. I love to see safety innovation with the inflatables because safety should always be an operator’s and manufacturer’s first concern. When safety is there, fun follows and that is the point of the bouncers.” -