Every year, about eight children under the age of five die from injuries sustained from falling out a window. More than 3,300 are seriously injured and wind up in the hospital. But many of these deaths and injuries could be prevented by putting some basic window safety practices in place.
I am the publisher of Door and Window Market (DWM) magazine, a publication aimed at those working in the door and window trade, and have been writing about windows and doors for 20 years. Every year we publish these disheartening window fall statistics and tell door and window companies to share safety tips with homeowners, in an attempt to prevent these tragedies. Eleven years ago this really hit home for me—and it was simply from watching my own kids play by a window.
We were moving into a two-story townhouse temporarily and I was backing out of the driveway when I saw my two older girls, four and six at the time, leaning into the window screens smiling, waving and yelling bye to me. I seriously almost had a heart attack. I ran into the house and told my husband and mother-in-law-to get the kids away from the window. “I write about this stuff,” I shouted. “They can fall out of those windows. Go tell them to get away from the windows.”
“It only takes seconds for a preventable window fall to occur,” says Becky Turpin, director of home and community safety for the National Safety Council (NSC). “To avoid these needless tragedies, it is very important for parents and caregivers to take steps to prevent home falls.”
What You Can Do—8 Simple Steps
The National Safety Council founded The Window Safety Task Force in 1997 to educate the public about the importance of practicing window safety year-round, and many window and screen associations are members of the task force and work together to promote window safety.
The Window Safety Task Force offers the following safety tips to homeowners:
- When young children are around, keep windows closed and locked.
- When opening a window for ventilation, use those located out of a child’s reach. For example, the upper sash of a double-hung window.
- Avoid placing furniture near windows to prevent young children from climbing.
- Don’t allow children to jump on beds or other furniture to help reduce potential falls.
- Don’t rely on insect screens to prevent a window fall. Insect screens are designed to keep bugs out, not to keep children in. Screens are not safety devices.
- Supervise children and train them to not play near windows, balconies or patio doors.
- Install code-compliant devices designed to limit how far a window will open or window guards (with quick-release mechanisms in case of fire) to help prevent a fall.
- Teach your child how to safely use a window to escape during an emergency, such as a fire.
Devices that Help
Window manufacturers, and the window and door industry in general, are doing what they can to help prevent child falls from windows. A Window Opening Control Device (WOCD) can make a difference. This gives them the ability to control the window opening automatically to help prevent accidental falls. One of the window companies that offer such products is Jeld-Wen, which offers a factory-installed option that meets the relevant codes.
As you talk to representatives of a window company about one of these devices, make sure to ask if it complies with ASTM F2090. These WOCDs can help prevent a child’s fall by limiting how far the window can open. They’re also equipped with release devices to allow for escape in case of an emergency.
The industry’s hardware suppliers have been quick to offer WOCDs as well. One example is the Angel Ventlock from Roto. Devices such as these can be low-cost and effective but also does not detract from the appearance of the window. Many of these work with all frame types so be sure to ask your window company about all the options available.
Window Safety Week
The window and door industry also helps raise awareness all year, but particularly during Window Safety Week which is held each year during the first week of April, and it is run by the National Safety Council.
Companies such as Andersen Windows run safety campaigns around this time of year, as spring is the time homeowners start opening their windows and doors to let in the fresh air.
The company offers a LookOut for Kids initiative which includes materials and tips to help educate consumers and caregivers on window safety.
What You Can Do Today
Walk around your house, look at your windows, and make sure you have followed steps one to eight listed above. If you have problem areas, take care of those right away, and be sure to talk to your kids about window safety. But also talk to others about this important topic as well. Look for kids playing around windows and warn the adults involved of any potential dangers.
If everyone spreads the word, we can all help reduce the number of child falls as one fall is one too many.