Beware of Killer Beach Umbrellas…It’s Not An Urban Myth
Beach or patio umbrellas are supposed to be a decorative touch on patios or by the pool or beach. No one would ever think that a beach umbrella could be deadly.
The latest deadly umbrella incident happened in South Carolina on Wednesday (8.10.2022). Tammy Perreault, 63, was sitting at a local beach when a sudden gust of wind picked up a nearby beach umbrella. The umbrella flew into the air and punctured her through the heart. She died an hour later in a nearby hospital.
This seems like a freak accident, until you look further.
There are many instances of patio or beach umbrellas impaling people. In 2016, a woman in Virginia Beach was killed when an airborne umbrella hit her. In fact, according to the U.S. Consumer Products Safety commission around three thousand people a year are rushed to hospitals in the U.S. due to injuries caused by umbrellas.
Beaches aren't the only place where umbrella fatalities occur. Many restaurants and bars have outdoor areas with tables and umbrellas. There are patio umbrellas in widespread use in apartment complex poolside areas, condos, and private residences.
These umbrellas can weigh anywhere between 20-30 pounds and pop-up canopies can weigh as much as 150 pounds. Even a slight wind of 10 miles an hour, which is the speed of the winds that killed Tammy Perreault in South Carolina, can produce the force of a car travelling at 20 miles an hour. Here in West Texas sudden pop-up thunderstorms can produce winds three times stronger than that.
People are even killed by the regular fold up umbrellas often used on rainy days. I guess we're lucky here in West Texas that it's been so dry lately. We all may be safer because of it.
Worldwide, the numbers of umbrella fatalities are staggering. Central European News has reported that nearly 2 million deaths a year happen globally from umbrella-related accidents. The numbers defy logic. Despite the widespread use of patio and beach umbrellas and the obvious dangers, The Consumer Products Safety commission does not currently regulate beach or patio umbrellas. There aren't even any voluntary safety standards for umbrellas.
There is an organization devoted to umbrella safety. BeachUmbrellaSafety.org suggests some basic umbrella safety tips.
- Use safety devices like sandbags to weigh the umbrella down and/or sand anchors with as many tiers as possible
- Buy the safest umbrella with features like a fabric, vented top, a sturdy shaft, and sturdy spokes.
- Never leave a beach umbrella unattended. Put down the umbrella canopy if you walk away.
In addition, make sure you buy the right umbrellas for how they are going to be used. You never want to use a patio umbrella at the beach for example. Remember, umbrellas can also be dangerous if they cannot be opened properly. Always oil the frame joint after taking your patio umbrella out of storage and make sure the joints move freely before use.
We all know the usual summer poolside and patio dangers. Most of us never think that a colorful and festive looking umbrella could lead to such devastating injuries and death. Now you know.