Bungee jumping is a daredevil activity in which the jumper leaps headfirst off a bridge, tower, crane, or hot-air balloon from heights of about 75-300 ft with one end of a long, wrist-thick, nylon-encased (elastic) bungee cord tethered to the ankles or to a body harness, and the other end attached to the jumping-off place; after a few seconds of a free fall the cord begins to stretch, slowing the dive until the jumper is within a few meters of the surface below, whereupon he or she is snapped upward as the cord recoils to its original length. After several yo-yo-like rebounds, stasis is achieved, and the jumper is lowered and disengaged.
Bungee jumping has its origins in a centuries-old, springtime practice on Pentecost Island, Vanuatu, in the Pacific, where "land divers" jumped off high wooden towers with liana vines fastened to their ankles to ensure a good year's harvest-, modern bungee jumping, however, began in Bristol, England, in 1979 with four simultaneous jumps off the Clifton Suspension Bridge.3 It quickly spread to New Zealand, Australia, and France, then to California, Colorado, and other U.S. locales. The youngest boy to bungee jump was 3 years old; the youngest girl to jump was 4 years old; the oldest man to jump was 100 years old; the oldest woman to jump was 89 years old.
The Flying Kockelman brothers (John and Peter) out of Mountain View, California opened the first commercial bungee business in North America in 1987. The Kockelman brothers along with their partner Eric Venters were also the first bungee site in the U. S to obtain liability insurance for a commercial bungee jump operation; the policy had a $10,000 premium minimum and ongoing coverage costs of 10% of their jump revenue.
Currently being promoted as the only agent offering insurance in the U. S. for the bungee industry is Gerald A. Whitt with Swett & Crawford, based in Atlanta, Georgia insurance coverage through Mr. Whitt is available upon an initial safety inspection from a qualified and reputable safety engineer, and is maintained through subsequent random spot inspections annually or more frequently, at the discretion of the insurance company. In most cases this man is Stat Cochran, a safety engineer and amusement ride inspector for over 20 years, who has trained most of the personnel working in the U.S. bungee industry to date. Stat Cochran's technical knowledge and vast experience in the field have set the standard for insurance inspections, as well as state by state government regulation for the bungee jumping industry.
For a fee of $1,000 dollars Stat Cochran and his team will inspect jumping venues, bungee cords, safety harnesses, employee training, and the necessary safety precautions that are paramount to obtaining insurance coverage; if any deficiencies are reported, insurance coverage will not be given until such time as these defects are brought up to the standards set forth by the safety engineers. Included in this memo is an example of the Bungee Inspection Form 6A, which is utilized by the insurance company to determine whether or not insurance coverage will be applied. Under Georgia Statutory law the Amusement Ride Safety Act requires that a bungee site must have liability insurance to operate. Insurance premiums range from $10,000 to $60,000 dollars depending on the number of jumping venues on a bungee site.
The North American Bungee Association (NABA) put together a set of guidelines for safe practice which was sent to all 50 states in the U.S. and all the provinces in Canada on January 25, 1994; a number of states and many individual county governing bodies adopted this Code of Safe practice. The NABA Code of Safe practice was combined with the Canadian Bungee Association guidelines along with the SANZ code (Standards Act New Zealand) and then modified. The state of Georgia has not adopted this code and adherence to this code has no bearing on obtaining insurance in any state.
The Department of Labor oversees the issuance of permits and the inspection of all bungee sites in the state of Georgia; a permit from the Georgia Department of Labor is required to operate a bungee site, and is $5,000 dollars for the initial fee plus annual renewal fees amounting to $1,000 dollars, quarterly inspections from the Safety Engineering Division are also required at the price of $500 dollars an inspection. Bungee jumping venues legal in the state are tower jumps only. Certain states also provide bridge, hot air balloon, and helicopter jumping venues. Bungee sites that provide hot air balloon, and helicopter jumping venues must adhere to the appropriate FAA regulations. Public bridges are not allowed for use as jumping venues in Georgia, unless a permit is obtained from the State Department of Transportation.
An investment of $200,000 to $300,000 dollars is needed to open a bungee site; a new bungee tower itself ranges from costs of $1 00,000 to $200,000 dollars. Dixieland Fun Park located in Fayateville, Georgia was the most recent bungee jumping site in the state; unfortunately due to the lack of patronage, along with the insurance and state costs imposed upon them, the bungee jumping site in the park was shut down. The tower at the Squaw Valley ski resort has continually grossed $500,000 dollars annually.
The Bungee jumping industry did quite well for the first five years; tragically, the summer of 1992 represented the downturn of the Bungee industry with two accidents occurring in July injuring three and resulting in one death. 19 Another death occurred in August of 1992 in Canada, as well as three accidents in Florida; during the summer of 1993 two people died in South Carolina from bungee jumping.
Public opinion on bungee jumping varies from state to state. The state of Tennessee has little government regulation on bungee jumping operations. The states of California and Florida have more thorough regulations. Presently, legislation is being proposed to prohibit bungee jumping in the state of Georgia- if passed Georgia will become the only state in the U.S. to ban bungee jumping.
The majority of Georgia state amusement ride inspectors are adamant in their opinion against bungee jumping. The lack of support for bungee jumping operations in Georgia is directly proportional to the lack of technical knowledge in respect to bungee jumping not only within the Safety Engineering division of the Department of Labor, but including the general public. The safety factor ratio is used in the amusement park industry as a measure of the capacity a given amusement ride is designed to support; a typical roller coaster ride has a safety factor ratio of three, whereas, bungee sites have a considerably higher safety factor ratio ranging from six to twenty.
With a hearty marketing on, and locating the bungee site on the grounds of our extremely successful water park facility, a synergistic market could be created in the state of Georgia. The first and probably most difficult step would be to sell opinion leaders from the state of Georgia on the fact that when properly operated and maintained a bungee jumping site is just as safe as an amusement park ride, and must be given equal consideration as such under the Amusement Ride Safety Act.