The news last week that a 3-year-old Beaverton girl was in critical condition after falling from a 2nd floor window is the most tragic sort of reminder of the importance of window safety. As I have written on several previous occasions, when children die or are injured in window falls the incidents are especially sad because they are so easily preventable.
According to television station KATU emergency services crews responded to reports of the fall and found that the girl had landed on a concrete surface below the window. She was taken to the Oregon Health and Science University Hospital (OSHU).
This summer, as it has for several years, SafeKids Oregon is promoting a campaign called ‘Stop at 4’ (see link below). The name refers to the maximum distance – 4 inches – that windows should be allowed to open in any place where children are, or even might be, present. The campaign also encourages the installation of safety bars on windows.
It is worth adding, however, that the idea of keeping windows no more than four inches open can only be truly effective if parents other adults take some other basic safety precautions. First, and most obviously, small children should never be left unattended in a room with an unlocked window. It is equally important to ensure that furniture, or anything else a child could climb on, is also kept a safe distance away. Never underestimate the ingenuity of a small child eager to look out a window or enjoy the breeze. They can climb on furniture, build platforms out of toys or books, and are likely to be better at opening closed windows than the adults around them probably think. Properly installed window stops are far more secure than the basic locks that come on most residential window panes.
Similarly, do not make the mistake of believing that a screen will protect children. Screens are designed to keep bugs out, which means that they are not designed to withstand the weight of even a toddler.
According to the National Safety Council, each year an average of eight children die from window falls and around 3300 are injured. As a Portland lawyer with a practice specializing in injuries to children I see cases involving window falls far too often, and urge everyone to take a few minutes to look at the resources I have linked in this blog post. Preventing window falls requires minimal preparation and consistent vigilance. Surely that is not too much to ask where our children are concerned.
SafeKids Oregon: Campaign to Stop Window Falls
National Safety Council: Window Falls Information Page