HCN News & Notes

Window Screens Don’t Prevent Falls; Adult Supervision Does

SPRINGFIELD — The summer has seen some extremely hot weather so far, and many people who don’t have air conditioning are keeping windows open in their homes and apartment buildings for air ventilation.

However, for those with young children, an open window is an invitation to tragic window falls if those youngsters are not properly supervised.

According to the U.S. Product Safety Commission (CPSC), each year some 3,300 children younger than age 6 fall from windows. About eight of those falls will result in death.

“Don’t be fooled into a false sense of security because there is a window screen in use. Window screens don’t prevent falls. Window guards and active supervision of children do,” said Dr. Kevin Moriarty, chief of Pediatric Surgery at Baystate Children’s Hospital. “Window screens are much weaker than you would think when it comes to the weight and force of a child. Each year we treat a number of children who fall from windows, especially during May through September, the peak months of the year.”

To help protect your child from window falls, install ASTM-approved fall-prevention devices or limited-opening hardware, which allow a window to open only a few inches. The National Safety Council Window Safety Task Force offers the following additional suggestions to help prevent kids from falling out of windows:

• Keep windows closed and locked when children are present.

• When opening windows for ventilation, make sure children can’t reach them.

• For a double-hung window or an upper floor of the home, open the top sash nearest the ceiling for ventilation, while keeping the bottom sash closed.

• Keep furniture away from windows, as they could tempt a curious child to climb and potentially fall.

• Don’t allow children to jump on beds or other furniture, which could lead to a fall.

• Research has shown that prevention measures should also include softening the landing surface below windows to help reduce the severity of injury in case a fall does occur.

“Even if you have safety devices installed, they do not take the place of active adult supervision,” said Mandi Summers, co-coordinator of Safe Kids of Western Mass., headquartered at Baystate Children’s Hospital. “Always keep an eye on kids around open windows. Toddlers have been known to fall out of windows open as little as five inches.”

Also, when it comes to window safety, there is more for parents to worry about in addition to falls. About once a month, a young child dies from a window-cord strangulation.

To help prevent strangulation, the CPSC recommends that homeowners and renters examine all shades and blinds for exposed cords on the front, side, and back of the product; use cordless windows in homes with young children; and, if they cannot afford new, cordless window coverings, contact the Window Covering Safety Council at (800) 506-4636 or at www.windowcoverings.org for a free repair kit to make them safer.

Safe Kids of Western Mass. works to prevent accidental childhood injury, the leading killer of children 14 and under. It is a member of Safe Kids Worldwide, a global network of organizations dedicated to preventing accidental injury. For more information about window safety, falls, and childproofing, call Safe Kids of Western Mass. at (413) 794-6510.

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