Window safety tips offered after tot’s fall

By Marissa Harshman, Columbian health reporter



Four inches. That’s the maximum amount a window can be open without posing a risk for a child. Even an inch more could give a child enough clearance to squeeze through the opening.

Every year, about 5,200 children fall from windows and other places around the home. Window falls are the most lethal, said Sandy Nipper, child safety program coordinator for Legacy Health.

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The Safety Store and Resource Center at Legacy Emanuel Medical Center, 501 N. Graham St. in Portland, is open 9 a.m. to noon Monday through Thursday or by appointment. For more information, or to schedule an appointment, call 503-413-4600.

So far this year, Nipper has heard of five children falling in the Portland-Vancouver area. The most recent was 2-year-old Jaden Buehler, who fell Sunday from the third-story window of his bedroom at the Prairie View Apartments in Orchards. The boy was taken to a local hospital and released later Sunday.

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“Jaden is perfectly fine. He has some bumps and bruises, but it’s like it never happened,” said Alexis Buehler, the boy’s mother.

Jaden, who turns 3 next month, was napping with his 18-month-old brother, Darren, when he pushed the crib from one wall to another in order to get closer to the window. Jaden then pushed the screen off the window, went onto the roof and fell 18 feet.

“I’m still in shock, following him around everywhere,” Alexis said.

Younger brother Darren followed Jaden out the window. A 13-year-old neighbor boy, Damon Davenport, pulled Darren to safety.

Alexis and her husband, Ben, have taken extra precautions since the accident. They rigged the window to keep it from opening more than an inch. A window safety device company, Guardian Angel, has offered the family two window guards, which Alexis said she plans to install.

Alexis said the family uses child safety devices throughout the house -- gates in doorways and at the top of the stairs, safety locks on door handles, outlet covers over electrical plugs and a baby monitor for her younger daughter’s room.

She suspects Jaden pushed on the screen, as he has done on closed windows, to get a better look outside. In doing so, the screen popped off, giving the kids access to the roof.

Nipper, with Legacy Health, said two types of safety devices on the market can help to prevent window falls.

Window guards, such as the one offered to the Buehler family, are white bars that go over the windows, allowing the windows to be completely open. The device has two release buttons so adults can quickly remove the bars in case of emergency. Otherwise, it would take 150 pounds of pressure to remove the device, Nipper said.

The other type of device is a window stop. The stop is installed in a window frame and stops the window from opening more than 4 inches. Window guards can also be overridden in case of emergency, Nipper said.

Legacy Emanuel Medical Center in Portland has a Safety Store and Resource Center with staff trained in using and installing the devices. Staff members can help parents identify the best option for their homes and provide hands-on installation and use demonstrations, Nipper said.

The safety store is nonprofit and sells the devices, and other safety equipment, at a discounted rate, she said.

Nipper offers these additional tips to help prevent window falls:

• Keep windows closed and locked when not in use.

• Keep furniture, and anything else a child can climb, away from windows.

• Teach children about window safety.

• Implement a kid-free zone around windows.

• When buying new windows, ask manufacturers about windows with built-in safety devices.

• Keep landscaping in mind. Bushes beneath windows provide a softer landing than cement.

• When using safety devices, don’t let children see adults operate the device to bypass the safety locks.

Parents should also educate others -- baby sitters, friends and family members -- about window safety and device use, Nipper said.

“Injury is the No. 1 killer and disabler of children,” she said. “And most of it’s preventable.”

Marissa Harshman: 360-735-4546;;;