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ORANGE COUNTY VOICES

No Child Should Fall From a Window

September 06, 1998|MARK FELDMEIR | Mark Feldmeir is a minister at United Methodist Church in Rancho Santa Margarita. He lives in Trabuco Canyon with his wife, Lori, his 5-year-old daughter, Alyson, and his 2-year-old son, Casey. His e-mail address is revmark@ix.netcom.com

Earlier this summer, I read in The Times of the tragic death of Anthony Allen, the 3-year-old who fell from a sixth-floor apartment building window in Koreatown. A neighbor one floor below Anthony's apartment suggested that if only she had seen him falling maybe she could have caught him before he raced by her window. But in most cases we cannot expect to catch our children when they fall.

Each year, 18 U.S. children ages 10 and under die from window-related fall injuries. Another 14,700 children suffer serious injuries related to window falls; head injuries account for the majority of those. Of window-fall-related deaths, the majority (70%) occur during the spring and summer months, and those children falling from windows are more likely to be male, under age 3 and playing unsupervised at the time of the fall.

Children living in apartment buildings have the highest number of window fall incidents, five times more than that of children living in houses. Those living in large urban areas, low-income neighborhoods and deteriorating and overcrowded housing tend to be at greater risk.

Window screens are intended to keep insects out, not children in; they do not make a window safer. In fact, window screens very well may create a greater danger because we tend to trust them more than we should.

Clearly there are better ways to save a child's life than camping out beneath open windows preparing for the catch. Window guards can be installed to prevent a nonemergency window in a building that has more than one story from opening more than five inches, which is all it takes for a child to slip through (a window guard distribution program in New York, combined with window guard legislation, demonstrated a 35% reduction in window fall-related fatalities after two years).

Furniture can be cleared away from windows to prevent children from climbing up to them and falling.

Shrubs and soft edging, such as wood chips or grass, can be installed under windows to cushion potential falls. The landing surface can greatly affect the degree of injury sustained from a fall.

Finally, renters in multistory apartment buildings can ensure that landlords are in compliance with local apartment-window ordinances. Deaths and injuries resulting from falls out of windows are wholly preventable.

I can't help thinking about Anthony Allen's mother and the window that looks out to a world that for her suddenly stopped.

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