Officials gathered outside a three-family Victorian home in Dorchester on Saturday to demonstrate how to install guards that keep windows from opening far enough to allow children through — part of the Kids Can’t Fly campaign, now in its 19th year.
“As a parent, it’s easy to forget about the risk of window falls because we all think of our homes as the safest place for kids to play,” said Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino in a prepared statement. “We want to make sure that homes are truly safe.”
Before the campaign began, there were 21 known falls from windows in Boston in 1991 and 18 in 1992, said Nick Martin, communications director at the Boston Public Health Commission. The number has since dropped to two or three falls a year, he said.
Head injuries, broken or fractured ribs, and internal organ injuries are especially common, Boston EMS Chief Jim Hooley said.
“It’s consistent with a car accident injury,” he said. “A lot of injuries can take a long time to recover from.”
Hooley was a paramedic in Boston before the Kids Can’t Fly campaign began in 1993, and recalled “a rash” of calls for children falling from windows.
“It was devastating for the parents, or whoever was watching the kid at the time,” Hooley said.
Nyoka Davis and her three young children live on the second floor of the Dorchester home, a 102-year-old three-story Victorian on Harvard Street. Young cousins and grandchildren often visit them.
Her landlord, Pradel Augustin, said he used a Boston Public Health Commission grant to install guards in the second- and third-floor windows. The grant has provided 1,140 free guards to 139 housing units since last April, the commission said in a statement.
Augustin said he tries to keep his tenants aware of how dangerous open windows can be.
“When something happens in the news, I cut it out and show them, or slide it under their door,” he said.
The Boston Public Health Commission is trying to reach small landlords like Augustin, who only rents out the Harvard Street house, and low-income residents.
As part of the initiative, Boston landlords and homeowners can buy discounted window guards through Boston Building Resources in Roxbury for $23.50 and a larger size for $30.50. The guards fit windows in older houses.
Despite higher awareness of the issue, falls persist: a 5-year-old girl broke multiple bones in an fall from a fifth-floor window in Springfield on June 3, and a 2-year-old girl died in a fall from a third-floor window in Fall River in May.
“It tells us we have to refocus, we can’t rest,” Hooley said.