Keep kids safe – protect children from window falls as temperatures rise in BC

Dr. Ash Singhal

THE number of children who were treated at BC Children’s Hospital after falling from a window or a balcony during the warmer weather months more than doubled in 2017 compared to the previous year.

BC Children’s cared for 15 children injured from a window or balcony fall from May to September 2017, compared to seven children during the same months in 2016. With these alarming statistics, physicians and paramedics from BC Children’s and BC Emergency Health Services strongly urge parents and caregivers to ensure their windows and balconies are secure.

“When a child is injured from a window or balcony fall, it can be devastating” said Dr. Ash Singhal, pediatric neurosurgeon and medical director of BC Children’s trauma program. “As the warmer season approaches, I strongly urge parents and caregivers to take precautions to ensure their windows and balconies are safely secure to prevent tragedies and keep our children safe.”

Tips to prevent falls from windows and balconies:

  • Don’t underestimate a child’s mobility; children begin climbing before they can walk.
  • Move furniture and household items away from windows to discourage children from climbing to peer out.
  • Remember that window screens will not prevent children from falling through.
  • Install window guards on windows above the ground level. These act as a gate in front of the window.
  • Alternatively, fasten your windows so that they cannot open more than 10 centimetres. Children can fit through spaces as small as 12 centimetres wide.
  • Ensure there is a safe release option for your windows in case of a house fire.
  • Do not leave children unattended on balconies or decks. Move furniture or planters away from the edges to keep kids from climbing up and over.
  • Talk to your children about the dangers of opening and playing near windows, particulary on upper floors of the home or in a high-rise dwelling.

While windows and balconies offer relief from hot weather, families must be mindful of the serious safety hazards they pose for young children. By practising window and balcony safety, families can enjoy the benefits of an open window or time on a balcony without the worry of a loved one falling and suffering a serious injury.

“It’s tragic that each year as we get into the warmer months we see young children falling from windows and balconies,” said Marilyn Oberg, a BCEHS paramedic. “A little bit of safeguarding work, and following our safety tips, can prevent this from happening.”

Between 2010 and 2016, 132 children were treated at trauma centres around the province after falling from a window or balcony. Approximately 85 per cent of these hospitalizations involved children between the ages of one and six.