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Preventing Window Falls

In a recent study, researchers from the University of Chicago analyzed data on nearly 1,000 cases of falls through windows involving young children and found that many of these injuries could have been prevented with simple safety steps. These measures included window guards, screens, shrubs or other barriers to outside access and ensuring that the upper sash of double-hung windows can only be opened from inside.

Most of the falls occurred in buildings four or fewer stories high and most involved a child falling from first or second floor windows. Almost half of the incidents happened in the summer. Most of the injuries were sustained by children under age six. The majority of falls were in homes with a parent or other caretaker present at the time of the incident, but in 53% of the cases the supervising adult was not the primary caregiver. The most serious injuries were sustained by children who landed on the concrete below the window.

In the majority of cases, a screen was present in the window, but it is important to remember that these are designed to keep insects out and not to prevent children from falling through windows. In addition, window screens can be removed or repositioned by children, making them ineffective. Shrubs, wood chips or other soft surfaces placed beneath the window can reduce the degree of injury if a child does fall through the glass.

Keeping a child away from the open windows of a house is difficult if a parent needs to perform cleaning tasks or other activities that require ascent. Ladders and various other ascent aids can be used, but these create additional danger sources. Many parents may also not be aware that household furniture can provide a ladder to the open windows and increase the risk of a fall.

A well-developed home window safety programme that is widely disseminated is an important strategy to prevent children from falling out of windows. This should include educational initiatives for both the general population and the professional caregivers of young children. It should focus on promoting and implementing effective barriers to window openings as well as providing parents with the information and tools to promote safe use of windows in their homes.

It is also important to remember that these window falls are preventable, and the autumn season provides an ideal opportunity for this work to be carried out. There is less of a demand for window replacement in the fall than in the spring, so homeowners will have more availability to schedule their window replacement work and have it completed before the winter.

To learn more about protecting your family from window falls, contact the Randall Children’s Hospital at Legacy Emanuel and the Portland Fire & Rescue. They offer hands-on practice and one-on-one education about fall prevention at the Safety Store and Resource Center, M-Th 9am-6pm or by appointment. They can be reached at 503-276-8711. You can also visit their website for information and resources about home window safety.

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