Creating a Safe Haven
Best Practices to Market an Inflatable Rental Business

The American Academy of Pediatrics Journal recently published an article focusing on a study conducted by The Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital Columbus, Ohio.  The study objective was to investigate bouncer-related injuries to children in the United States from 1990 – 2010.  While the popularity of inflatable amusements has significantly increased throughout that time period and the number of safe uses may not have been weighed against the data, the conclusion was that injuries have increased rapidly in recent years.
One successful approach in decreasing negative publicity and educating customers as to the safe use of inflatable amusements can be accomplished by emphasizing safety in marketing materials provided to clients. These materials can be made available from the onset, when attracting customers to your business.
The inflatables industry has safety standards, and additional recommendations for safe bouncer use were made by the pediatrics study.  Unfortunately, clients are sometimes too busy enjoying the party to focus on the supervised use of the inflatable. Addressing the question of how marketing money can enhance the development of your safety program could be an avenue to a better safety blueprint.
The American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) is globally recognized for the development and delivery of international voluntary standards. The group currently has a committee formed (F-24) to address the Design, Manufacture, Operation and Maintenance of inflatable Amusement Devices.  These standards are available for purchase through ASTM from their website at published under standard F2374-10.  Although published as voluntary regulations, many states that have adopted regulations determined by ASTM automatically adopt the standards as law; this is the case in Pennsylvania.
Marketing with a safety message, and documenting safe operating procedures during every step of the rental process, can set you apart as a safe operator and influence customers to use your services. There is also a shared responsibility for safety between the business owner and client.
There are often misconceptions related to the use of inflatable amusement devices that allow certain clients be their own worst enemy.  Budget is very often a concern in renting equipment and it has been my experience that clients who frequently call and search for the lowest price or even make offers to pay less do not realize the overhead costs associated with safe operations.
Safety brochures are an effective way to educate the public, and distributing these materials along with pricing information is a simple way to emphasize an operator’s commitment to safety.
Much of a company’s business takes place on the phone, and in handling calls, it is useful to rehearse answers to common questions. To prepare for phone calls, review and understand manuals provided by manufacturers so that you can clearly explain the safe installation and operation of each unit. It will also help to ask renters the correct questions about their needs and event and to share your knowledge as a professional.
The review of safety procedures with staff and customers is critical. Although posting this information on the company website is an effective means of sharing the information, printed forms are an ideal backup way to make sure the information has been communicated.
Practical tools such as whistles can also aid you in your goal of enforcing safety procedures. Whistles can be printed with your company logo and website and left behind as party favors. Also at the event, rules for safe operation and enjoyment of inflatables need to be posted at the entrance to the ride. These rules can include your logo, website and contact information so customers remember your company the next time they host an event.
The inflatable industry continues to evolve and significant improvements have been made by many responsible operators and manufacturers based on voluntary standards.  Trade associations such as the IAAPA and AIA offer free or reasonably priced educational programs to industry professionals attending tradeshows throughout the year.  Don’t forget that customers and patrons also need to be included in the process of risk management and safety.
Despite criticisms of the inflatable attraction industry, the creative and colorful designs, ease of transportation, set up and general operation of these units, and the affordable fun and excitement they provide at a party, are winning combinations.  However, due diligence needs to be executed to prevent injuries to children.
For thousands of companies, getting involved with the inflatables industry is focused on fun, servicing the needs of their clients, and making a profit.  With the correct safety-oriented marketing materials and mission statement, these goals can be accomplished and ongoing growth and success can be experienced. –
(Contributor Kevin Wieging is president of UltraSound Special Events Inc. and has lectured extensively on risk management and business development for the inflatable industry. He has also created a video series for an industry insurance provider.)

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