Posted by Claudia Grazioso on July 29, 2011
Last week a tragedy happened in a city just south of where we live. When I saw the story on the news, my blood ran cold. While playing with some friends in his parents’ apartment, a little boy jumped up on a piece of furniture that was right near an open window. He lost his balance, slipped into the screen, the screen gave and he fell out. Four stories.
The whole horror of the story has stayed with me, but there are a few things that stand out: One, the little boy was four years old. I have always kind of seen four as the cut off when I no longer have to watch my kids constantly or be as vigilant. They’re surefooted, they have stopped putting random things in their mouths. I had not taken into account jumping on furniture, and had never even thought about open windows. Two, now that summer is here, our windows are always open… rickety old screens and all. Suddenly, that lovely early morning or evening breeze that I enjoy blowing through the second floor of our house seemed like it might not be so worth it. That cool nighttime air that fills my kids’ curtains? Forget it. I yanked their windows shut and dug out the extra fans from the basement.
Tragically, children falling out of open windows is not uncommon. Each year about 15,000 kids — 15,000! — fall from a window in their homes. Of those, about 20 die from their injuries. And the really scary thing is that this kind of injury that can happen in flash, even when parents are home, as the parents of the young boy who died recently near our hometown were. It can even happen when you’re in the same room. How many times have I wandered through the living room tidying up to find a kid standing on the couch singing into a pretend microphone?
Now, I know that not all accidents are avoidable, and after a few days I realized that living in a hermetically-sealed home where we never open another window is not exactly a reasonable response to such a tragedy. But there are some common sense things parents can do to lessen the risk of something similar happening to their families:
First, screens are made to keep bugs out, not children in. Do not assume that because a screen is in place, even very securely, that it can hold the weight of a bouncing child who has rocket-launched herself over the coffee table and onto the couch. Most likely, it can’t.
Second, if you can, have window guards installed.
Third, if you have windows that open up and down instead of sliding horizontally, consider opening them from the top, not the bottom.
Fourth, move all furniture that children climb on or play on away from windows. You might think that at six or seven or eight your children are old enough to “know better.” You would be wrong. That 15,000 a year number? It refers to children under eleven. Kids don’t know better. When they’re playing or bouncing or having fun, they don’t think of or even acknowledge danger. That’s why we have to do it for them.