Window guards are essential to protect children from falls, advocates say
The death of a 5-year-old Brookline girl on Monday after a fall from a fourth-floor window is a tragic reminder of how important window safety measures are for families with young children.
Around the nation, over 3,300 children fall out of windows each year, according to the state Department of Public Health.
Safety advocates say window guards are the first line of protection to prevent young children from falling out of windows. In recent weeks, three other children have fallen out of windows, in Chelsea, Quincy, and Framingham. Their injuries were not fatal.
In Boston, landlords are not required to install window guards, but the Boston Public Health Commission has promoted their use through an educational program called “Kids Can’t Fly,” which teaches families and landlords how to prevent such accidents.
Window screens will not prevent falls, according to the program’s website.
A screen was found on the sidewalk near the girl who fell in Brookline.
“Window falls are preventable,” said Eugene Barros, director of healthy homes and community support at the commission. He added that a Boston ordinance “strongly encourages” landlords to install window guards if there are children 7 and under living in an apartment.
Window guards consist of aluminum or steel grates with maximum 4-inch spaces between the bars. The guards are designed to withstand 150 pounds of pressure and can be purchased at a local hardware or home improvement store for about $40 each, according to the commission’s website.
Boston Building Resources sells small, medium, and large window guards for approximately half price. The city has a partnership with Boston Building Resources and subsidizes the costs for families in need. Rather than $55, small and medium window guards go for $23.50. A large guard can be bought for $30.25, rather than $70.
“We generally sell these guards for parents to install on their own residences. They are the kind of thing someone could take with them if they installed them in a rental unit,” said Greg Caplan, a customer service representative at the company.
Window guards have a quick release option if people need to evacuate. On the Public Health Commission’s website, there are videos to help parents install window guards safely.
“Screens are meant to keep bugs out of the house, not children in the house,” said Carlene Pavlos, director of the community health and prevention bureau at the state Department of Public Health. “One of the other things we talk about is assuring that furniture like beds and couches are kept away from windows.”
Other tips to prevent falls include keeping toys away from windows, opening windows from the top down if possible, and using window stops to prevent windows from opening more than four inches, Pavlos said.
“Almost any window that is open can be a risk,” Pavlos said. “We also know that the further a child falls, there greater the risk for injury and death, above the second floor is particularly fatal.”
Even with safety measures in places, adults need to be vigilant.
“Keeping an eye on young kids is the best prevention strategy,” she said.