Keeping Kids Safe Around Windows
Every year in the United States, nearly 5,000 children — mostly toddlers — fall out of windows; 28% require a hospital stay and approximately 20 die. A child who falls 10 feet can suffer spinal injury, paralysis and fatal head injury. Safe Kids Denver Metro reminds parents to keep kids safe around open windows.
We tend to think of children falling down the stairs, falling off playground equipment or falling off a bike or skates; in addition, babies and toddlers in wheeled walkers are prone to falls, and young children often fall off furniture. These can result in serious injuries, but window falls are especially dangerous because of the heights and hard landing surfaces.
“A window screen is not a safety device,” said a spokesperson from Safe Kids Denver Metro. “It’s designed to keep insects out, not to keep children in. Window guards, window locks or wedges or other means should be installed to keep the window from opening too much. Proper safety devices on windows save lives. Taking a few safety precautions may save your child from serious injury or death.”
Window guards have been shown to reduce fatal falls by up to 35% as seen in a pilot study in New York City and the nonprofit product testing organization, ASTM International, has established voluntary standards to ensure window guards don’t interfere with emergency escape in a fire. In an apartment in a high-rise building, these devices should be considered essential safety equipment.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) suggests contacting the following companies for more information about purchasing window guards. They are typically not available through local retailers but can be purchased online.
Window guards screw into the side of a window frame and have bars no more than 4 inches apart. They are sold in different sizes for various size windows and adjust for width. Guards must meet requirements for spacing and strength. In a home with young children it is critical that window guards that are installed have a release mechanism so that they can be opened for escape in a fire emergency. Guards that allow for escape in case of emergencies must be difficult for very young children to open.
Other window safety devices
Parents may also consider using other window safety devices such as window wedges or braces or removing the hand cranks on casement windows. The bottom line is to ensure that windows do not open more than 4 inches. Toddlers have been known to fall out of windows or get trapped in window openings in as little as 5 inches. Parents should be aware that windows provide a means of escape from a burning home, so whatever protection means are used they need to able be easily opened or removed in a fire emergency.
Still, no safety device can take the place of active adult supervision. Always keep an eye on kids around open windows. Making your home child-safe is not a one-time project – It’s an ongoing activity.
Window safety reminders
Safe Kids Denver Metro also reminds parents and caregivers:
- Keep windows closed and locked when children are around, and keep furniture and anything that a child can climb away from windows to reduce the chances of a child falling through a window. When opening a window for ventilation chose one that a child cannot reach.
- If you have double-hung windows — the kind that can open down from the top as well as up from the bottom — it is generally safer to open the top pane, but growing kids may have enough strength, dexterity and curiosity to open the bottom pane. Don’t assume an unlocked window is childproof.
- Set and enforce rules that your child cannot play near windows especially the activity many kids love – jumping on the bed.
- Strategic landscaping may lessen the extent of injury sustained in the event of a fall. Shrubs and soft edging such as wood chips or grass under a window can cushion potential falls.
Never try to move a child who appears to be seriously injured after a fall — call 911 and let trained medical personnel move the child with proper precautions. (Of course, if a child is not breathing and you are trained in CPR, as all parents should be, follow your CPR protocols.)
Finally, while you’re childproofing your windows, take a moment to secure the curtain pulls or blind cords out of reach — kids have been strangled while playing with dangling cords. Install safety tassels on the ends of the curtain pulls or cut the loops so a child is less likely to get trapped.
For more information about window safety, falls and childproofing, call Safe Kids Denver Metro at (720) 777-8412, whose members include childproofing professionals or visit www.usa.safekids.org.
About Safe Kids Denver Metro
Safe Kids Denver Metro works to prevent accidental childhood injury, the leading killer of children 14 years and under. Its members include individuals from over 50 health and safety agencies and organizations throughout the Denver metropolitan area including childproofing professionals. Safe Kids Denver Metro is a member of Safe Kids Worldwide, a global network of organizations dedicated to preventing accidental injury. Safe Kids Denver Metro was founded in 1998 and is led by Children's Hospital Colorado.