Your child loves taking aerial classes, fabulous! And they would love to do more, what if they could practice at home, that would be great, right? Not so fast! There are a LOT of issues to consider before installing aerial equipment in your home, here is a short summary of them:
1. Load capacity & space requirements:
Before you begin installing any aerial equipment, you will need to determine:
- Load capacity of the aerial point: A person moving on an aerial apparatus generates a LOT of force, far more than their weight when they’re standing still on the floor.
Industry standard for aerial rigging is that any aerial point must have a load capacity of no less than 2000 lbs safe working load and a minimum breaking strength of no less than 8000 lbs. This capacity MUST be independent of any other loads in the support path – it is NOT acceptable to use up the snow load capacity for an aerial point. Consult with a structural engineer to determine the load capacity of your home’s structure.
- If your home is typical modern wood-frame construction, this will need major additional construction and reinforcement to provide sufficient load capacity – several thousand dollars’ worth in renovations.
- We know that your child is likely under 100lbs. However, the aerial point should be strong enough to hold up a car. If you can’t hang a car in your living room safely, you really shouldn’t put a human being on that point. We want both your child and you to be safe.
Fun Fact: Without reinforcement, the high loads that occur on aerial apparatus could easily damage the home’s structure and render it unsafe. One example happened a few years’ ago: a person was practicing a small drop on an aerial fabric in her home and the force of impact on the rigging point caused the ceiling to partially collapse – her home needed between $50,000 -$100, 000 of structural repairs. She had to move out while her home was being rebuilt as the second floor was at risk of collapsing completely. And those costs were NOT covered by her home insurance.
- Clearance space: minimum of 6’ unobstructed space on all sides (12’ diameter) both at the rigging point and also on the floor.
2. Costs you will need to invest in:
- Consulting with a structural engineer about the installation of the rigging point and hiring construction contractors to renovate and reinforce the structure of your home.
- Rigging equipment from reputable suppliers – no, eyebolts from Home Depot or Ikea are NOT acceptable!
- Aerial apparatus from reputable circus equipment suppliers – the apparatus must be load tested & engineered specifically for aerial training.
- Mats: sufficient padding under and around the apparatus is necessary to prevent injury. If a person practices with only a hard floor under them, they can easily sprain or fracture any body part hitting the floor by accident, or more serious injury can result if they fall. Good quality gymnastics mats are important for minimizing these risks.
- Insurance: aerial points are NOT included in homeowners’ or renters’ insurance and must be added on. Installing an aerial point without insurance specifically covering this can result in cancellation of your home insurance.
- Zoning: installation of aerial apparatus may require rezoning of your home depending on building codes
- Inspections: you will need to hire a qualified aerial performer rigger & structural engineer to do regular inspections, ongoing maintenance, & repairs to the aerial point.
- Do you know the skill your child is practicing? Do you know how to spot them and assist them? Do you know how to get in and out of position correctly? Whoever is supervising needs to know the fabric skills & correct spotting techniques – what can go wrong and how to avoid it.
- Two major things can go wrong:
1) your child becomes tangled in fabric and can’t get out safely, or
2) your child falls out, potentially landing on their head or spine resulting in serious injury. Without understanding the techniques thoroughly, the risks of mistakes and serious injury increase considerably. This is why your child’s aerial teachers spend years training to understand the skills inside & out to keep your child safe in class.
- Also, are you ensuring that your child will practice ONLY when you are supervising? That they or their friends will not be able to play on the apparatus alone or without proper supervision? If they have friends over, how do you manage their friends’ safety, especially if they have no experience in aerial classes? Do you have a way of securing the apparatus or taking it down so that it cannot be used by others?
4. Liability: What happens if your child or someone else gets injured using the apparatus?
- If a guest gets hurt, who is going to pay for the injury?
- What if your guest doesn’t have medical insurance and gets hurt?
- What if your guest loses work because of an injury sustained on your home rig?
- What if your rigging fails while being used by a guest?
- What if your rigging point is used by an uninvited guest?
- How do you make sure that a resident of your home isn’t going to get hurt and suffer for hours before they are found?
So if home rigging is a) expensive and b) difficult to manage because of the safety issues, what are some alternatives?
Good news: conditioning and flexibility work can be done easily at home with far less expense or risk! How about getting a pull-up bar to work on upper body strength? You can also use a stability ball for core conditioning and flex bands or small hand weights for shoulder strengthening. You can work on flexibility with a yoga mat and a pair of yoga blocks.
Your aerial teacher can give you a simple workout program to follow with exercises that will help your child develop the strength, flexibility, and control needed in an aerial class. Training good movement habits on the ground will greatly help train good skills in the air. Using good training habits greatly reduces the risks and makes aerial arts far more enjoyable for years to come.
*adapted from So You Want An Aerial Point At Home by Steven Santos, Simply Circus Inc. in Newton Massachussetts.