I-Team: As Bounce Houses Grow in Popularity, Safety Regulations Haven't Kept up

Amid increasing concerns over the safety of children’s bounce houses and calls for regulation, the News 4 I-Team found a critical New York State advisory board, created by law after a string of deadly amusement park accidents, hasn’t met in six years.

The Carnival, Fair and Amusement Park Safety Advisory Board – a panel of industry experts – was formed in 2006 with a mandate to advise the state Labor Department commissioner on “rules, regulations and statutes” for everything from mechanical rides to inflatables.

The Labor Department confirmed to the News 4 I-Team the board last met in 2011 when members were asked to review changes to state safety codes, with a spokesman explaining “no changes have been proposed since that time.”

“They’ve got a lot of catching up to do,” said Bob Kramarik, who owns an entertainment company in Elmira and has been on the advisory board since its inception, pointing out that New York State has no regulation of rented or “backyard” inflatables.

“New York [State] just requires that you follow the manufacturer’s instructions as to how to safely set up and operate each inflatable,” he said.

While the law that established the advisory board did not mandate how often it should meet, Kramarik said the gatherings were quarterly for the “first few years” but stopped without explanation – just as bounce houses were taking off.

“In the past couple years, inflatables have just exploded,” he said, “not only on the professional level but also with your box stores selling them for the backyard,” he said. “A lot of these accidents that are happening are backyard versions of these items.”

New Jersey has responded with regulations that are among the toughest in the country, requiring annual inspections, notification each time an inflatable is set up and a trained operator on site. New York City also has very strict licensing and permitting regulations.

As inflatables have surged in popularity, so too have accidents. From 2003-2013, the Consumer Product Safety Commission reports there 113,272 emergency room-treated injuries and 12 deaths in the United States associated with inflatables.

“It’s mainly kids who are getting hurt,” said Jeanne Mazzocco, a Long Island mother who witnessed a bounce get blown away and injure 12 people in 2011. “It’s children. So you’d think they would take initiative to regulate it.”

Kramarik is hopeful New York will soon take steps toward more oversight.

The Labor Department told the News 4 I-Team the advisory board is now scheduled to reconvene for the first time since 2011.

“Despite the fact no [safety code] changes have been proposed the Board is scheduled to meet in the Fall in order to review the rule and discuss any updates that may be necessary,” a spokesman said in a statement.

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