Falls are the leading cause of injury for American children under the age of 15. Most falls occur at home. In 2001, 121 children were killed and thousands were injured in falls. Warm weather months bring open windows and an increased risk of window falls. Because many children, especially those in older urban areas, live in multi-story duplexes, many children also are at risk of falls from 2nd story porches and balconies. In about 2/3 of balcony-related falls, children fall between balcony rails.
What you can do to help protect children
- Always supervise children in a risky environment carefully. The vast majority of falls from windows and balconies occur when children are unsupervised.
- Install window stops to prevent windows from opening more than 4" or window guards that are releasable in case of fire
- Ensure that window guards are solidly anchored; screwing these guards into rotting or damaged wood places children at risk and gives parents a false sense of security.
- If you rent, ask the landlord to put in window stops or guards, or ask for permission to do so yourself.
- When possible, open the top half of double-hung windows, rather than the bottom.
- Regularly check for and fix loose railings or boards on 2nd story balconies.
- Make sure porch and balcony railings are spaced 4" apart or less to prevent children from slipping through or trapping body parts; railings on older buildings can be up to 7" apart and may need to be replaced to protect children.
Situations to avoid
- Do not place furniture or other climbable objects near windows or balcony railings.
- Never rely on screens to protect children from window falls. Screens are designed to keep bugs out, not to keep children in.
- Never leave a child alone on a second story balcony or in a room with open windows-it only takes seconds for tragedy to occur.
Adapted from information prepared by the Rainbow Community Safety & Resource Center, Rainbow Babies & Children's Hospital and used with permission.
Sources: American Academy of Pediatrics, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Children's Environmental Health Network.
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Last Reviewed: Apr 24, 2007
Formerly, Professor of Pediatrics
School of Medicine
Case Western Reserve University