Six Most Dangerous Things To Do on a Balcony

Published on September 17th, 2012
By Jennifer Oppriecht

A balcony is a beacon for partygoers.  Besides a great view and some fresh air, it also offers up a golden opportunity for thrill-seekers:  You can either put your own life in danger, or kill some other innocent victims.  Who can resist that? Sarcasm aside, we thought it would be wise to showcase a few of the more inane acts of balcony stupidity, both domestic and international, and share with you some of the not-so-pleasant results. 1. “Balconing” Add “balconing” to the list of things that look like a good idea when you’re half in the bag.  “Balconing” became popular in Magaluf, a holiday hotspot in Majorca for Britons and other folks who are enticed by the party scene. After a few too many cocktails, partygoers take to the balconies and dive into the pools, a practice decidedly against building codes. Take a look at the video to see what people do in the name of fun.

Over a month stretch in Majorca, three Britons died from balcony falls.  All were having too good of time, and somehow managed to fall to their deaths.  Included was Charlotte Faris, who was trying to jump from her apartment down to a friend’s apartment on a different floor. Now Madison may not be the equivalent a Majorca – but then again, visit Mifflin Street during a certain week in May and you may think it is.  Either way, the potential is there for “balconing” stupidity. 2. Planking planking-resized-600 A not-so-distant cousin to “balconing”, planking consists of lying face down like a board – particularly in daring or dangerous places.  Of course, who wouldn’t want to plank off a balcony railing?  Probably not the guy who gave it a try and then plummeted seven stories to his death. 3.  Dangling a baby off the balcony Perhaps one of the greatest examples of balcony stupidity occurred in 2002, involving the late Michael Jackson.  The King of Pop was vacationing in Berlin, Germany, when he made “a terrible mistake.” Jackson’s hotel was swarmed by screaming fans, eager to catch a glimpse of the iconic star.  They got their wish when Jackson appeared at a third story window, clutching an infant believed to be his youngest son, Prince Michael II. He moved to the balcony and showed off the baby, dangling it over the railing to shocked onlookers.  The resulting video spread quickly around the world, causing the embarrassed Jackson to release the statement, “I got caught up in the excitement of the moment.  I would never intentionally endanger the lives of my children.”

Now it doesn’t appear the baby is in great danger, as the dangle occurs for just a brief moment.  But a brief moment is usually all it takes, right? 4.  Throwing a dog off the balcony In January, a Baltimore man apparently had enough of the yipping his Yorkshire Terrier, and the jerk launched it off his balcony.   Somehow, the dog miraculously survived. Insane, yes, but some people do throw inanimate objects as well.  From cigarette butts to incredibly heavy objects, this can be a very dangerous practice. The website Condo Information Centre gives a few examples of what can happen:

  • A woman leaves her newspaper on her patio table to answer her phone inside. As she is talking, she smells fire: Her newspaper, tablecloth, and cushion are already burning! Someone above threw a cigarette that had not been fully extinguished.
  • A resident is driving into the garage entrance when a beer bottle flies down and smashes into his windshield. Startled, he drives into the garage door and breaks it. His car is also damaged.
  • A resident is enjoying a good book in the coolness of early evening when a used condom suddenly lands on his lap. Difficult to explain to his wife!
  • A couple is standing on their balcony leaning against the guardrail. The man is suddenly hit over the head by a full can of pop accidentally dropped from a higher balcony. He had to go to the emergency room and the police were called to investigate.

Besides being dangerous (especially to little doggies,) throwing objects can also be quite costly.  According to the current City of Madison ordinance, “Throwing any object from a balcony is dangerous to those walking by, damages property and is illegal.”  The fine is $303. 5. Grabbing a power line We found this picture on the City of Madison Fire Department website.  Check out the partygoer on this Mifflin Street balcony/rooftop.  Looks like a pretty cool zip line, hey dude?  Fortunately, this guy didn’t encounter 76,000 volts of power surging through his body.  Then he would have been “toasted” for sure. grabbing_powerline_on_balcony-resized-600 6.  Overloading the balcony You don’t have to engage in any of the items listed here to potentially put your life in danger.  Simply overloading a balcony or a structure will do the trick. Case in point – the 2003 Chicago balcony collapse.  An overloaded balcony collapsed during a party, killing thirteen people and seriously injuring 57 others.  The investigation that followed found the balcony was poorly constructed, but the landlord believes overcrowding played a major role. chicago_balcony_collapse-resized-600 What would an actual balcony collapse feel or look like?  Fortunately, there haven’t been too many caught on film.  Here’s a hypothetical one that’s actually supposed to be about quitting smoking.  It is a bit shocking to watch.   Here’s a video of the aftermath of one balcony collapse.  This occurred in Collaroy, Australia, and fortunately there were no fatalities.

Here’s a video of the aftermath of one balcony collapse. This occurred in Collaroy, Australia, and fortunately there were no fatalities.

Simple ways to avoid “Balcony Stupidity” We understand that the people who engage in acts of balcony stupidity aren’t going to be interested in the tips below, but for those of you who’d like to avoid inadvertent acts of balcony of stupidity, give them a read. These tips come from straight from Scott Strassburg, Fire Prevention Officer with the City of Madison Fire Department. His main concern is about overcrowding on a balcony, a hazard that explains why the City of Madison are so vigilant about balcony safety during the Mifflin Street block party. He offers some tips on how to stay safe on your balcony. 1. There must be room to move. Strassburg urges you not to overload your balcony.  So what exactly does “overload” mean?  He doesn’t really have a certain weight number, but he does over simple rules of thumb.  If your balcony is so packed with people that you can’t move, then its overloaded. 2. A balcony shouldn’t be sagging. If your balcony is sagging, yes, that’s a pretty good indicator that you’re overlooked.  Strassburg recalls walking into one party where the tenants had used two by fours to prevent the roof under the balcony from sagging. 3. Hardware should be in place. The hardware that holds your balcony to your structure should all be intact.  That means no bolts are missing, and the structure is not separating or rusting, particularly with fire escapes. 4. Wood should be solid. The wood on your balcony should also be in good shape – no splitting or rotting. 5. Exits can’t be obstructed. People like to treat their balconies like an extra room, but Strassburg cautions that balconies must be easily accessible, especially in the event of a fire.  Even if a fire exit does not extend off the porch, there may be a jump platform near the deck. 6. Beware of strange noises or weird flooring. If the balcony feels spongy, or if it feels like it’s flexing in any way, that’s a danger sign.  One tenant recalled hearing the sound of popping and cracking, before a fire escape gave way.  She thought she was listening to popcorn. 7. Tame the open flame.   Avoid using any types of open flames on your balcony.  Nothing should be within 10 feet of combustible construction.  Strassburg points out that fire can often start on the outside, and then move quickly inside, possibly blocking your exit. He also recommends that you don’t use LP or charcoal grills on decks and balconies.  DO NOT leave used charcoal out on the deck in any type of container, as fires have started when people assumed the charcoal was no longer hot or warm. Needless to say, you’ll also want to avoid balcony misbehaviors numbers 1-7, mentioned earlier in the article.  They’re good examples of how encouragement from a crowd can drive a person to do something stupid. And that’s perhaps the most important rule to remember when it comes to balcony safety.  When you feel like you’re pushing it too far, it’s a good chance you probably are.

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