Every year, nearly 4,000 kids nationwide – mostly toddlers – fall out of windows. Twenty-eight percent require a hospital stay, and about a dozen die. A child who falls 10 feet can suffer spinal cord injury, paralysis and fatal head injuries.
Safe Kids of Western Mass., headquartered at Baystate Children’s Hospital, is teaming up with trauma surgeons at Baystate Medical Center to stress the importance of window guards on all windows above the first floor, preferably guards equipped with an emergency release device in case of fire.
“A screen is not a safety device,” said Dr. Ronald Gross, chief, Trauma and Emergency Surgical Services, Baystate Medical Center. “It’s designed to keep insects out, not to keep children in. Proper safety guards on windows save lives."
Window guards were shown to reduce fatal falls by up to 35 percent as part of a pilot program in New York City. While law in some states such as New York, they are not required by law in Massachusetts, but are recommended in homes with children age six and under.
“In an apartment in a high-rise building, window guards should be considered essential safety equipment,” said Gross.
As the area’s only Level I Trauma Center, in addition to healing the sick and wounded, health care professionals in Trauma Services at Baystate Medical Center include education/prevention as part of their daily routine.
Among the facts:
- the majority of window fall-related deaths occur during the spring and summer months
- children falling from windows are more likely to be male, under age five and playing unsupervised at the time of the fall
- window falls tend to occur in large urban areas, low-income neighborhoods, and deteriorating and overcrowded housing
- children living in apartment buildings have the highest number of window fall incidents – five times more than children living in residences.
- “Still, no safety device can take the place of active adult supervision, noted Mandi Summers, co-coordinator, 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,” she said.
Safe Kids of Western Mass. also reminds parents and caregivers:
- Keep windows locked when they’re closed, and keep furniture away from windows so kids can’t climb to the ledge.
- 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.
- 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 training.)
- Tie 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 of Western Mass. at 413-794-6510. You can ask to subscribe to the Safe Kids E-Newsletter.