Wednesday, December 1, 2021
Dec. 1, 2021

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Be window-wise to keep kids safe this summer

Stop at 4" campaign aims to teach parents how keep kids from falling out windows

By , Columbian Health Reporter
Published:
6 Photos
Jan Berichon, a child safety health educator at the Randall Children's Hospital Safety Center, demonstrates how window-safety devices work Wednesday afternoon at the safety center in Portland. Window stops prevent windows from opening more than 4 inches, and window guards keep children from falling out of fully open windows.
Jan Berichon, a child safety health educator at the Randall Children's Hospital Safety Center, demonstrates how window-safety devices work Wednesday afternoon at the safety center in Portland. Window stops prevent windows from opening more than 4 inches, and window guards keep children from falling out of fully open windows. (Photos by Natalie Behring/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

As the weather begins to warm up, health officials are reminding parents to stop at 4 inches when it comes to windows.

The Stop at 4″ campaign refers to the widest windows should be open when children are present. Opening windows more than 4 inches can pose a safety risk for curious kiddos, said Jan Berichon, child safety health educator at Randall Children’s Hospital Safety Center in Portland.

“Their heads are big for their bodies,” Berichon said. “They’re top heavy.”

When a curious kid peers out an open window — or pushes their hands and face against a window screen, which are designed to pop off of windows — their heads can propel them forward, Berichon said. They lack the reflexes and control to pull their bodies back to safety, allowing their bodies to topple out of the window, she said.

Each year, about 3,300 children younger than 5 are injured in the U.S. from window falls, according to Safe Kids Worldwide. Oregon trauma centers, including Randall Children’s Hospital at Legacy Emanuel, treated 26 children who fell from windows in both 2014 and 2015 — that’s down from a high of more than 50 falls in both 2009 and 2010, Berichon said.

“Kids who fall out of windows end up really injured,” Berichon said. “They don’t typically die from the window fall, but they end up with brain injuries.”

If You Go

 What: Randall Children’s Hospital Safety Center.

 Where: 501 N. Graham St., Portland.

 When: 9 a.m. to noon Monday through Thursday, by appointment in afternoons.

 Contact: 503-413-4600, www.legacyhealth.org/windowsafety

To Learn More

Learn more about the Stop at 4” campaign at www.stopat4.com

But in 2015, two children did die from injuries sustained from window falls, Berichon said. Prior to those deaths, the last window fall fatality in the area was in 2009, when 4-year-old Parker Reck fell from a second-story window of his Molalla, Ore., home. After his death, Parker’s mother, Ashley Reck, partnered with Randall Children’s Hospital and Safe Kids Oregon to launch the Stop at 4″ campaign in November 2010.

The goal of the campaign is to educate families and caregivers about window fall prevention and put an end to window falls.

“It’s so preventable if people are aware, are educated and know what to do,” Berichon said.

First, Berichon said, parents should know which windows in their homes pose a risk for falls. Windows that open and have a 6-foot drop or more to the ground below are considered risky windows, she said.

Windows that provide a glimpse at outdoor activity — such as overlooking a park where kids play or a street or driveway where people and cars pass by — are also problematic. Other risky windows include those with a wide windowsill, a windowsill with a seat and those that are lower to the floor, Berichon said.

And windows don’t have to be wide open to pose a risk. Windows that are closed but not locked or windows that are only cracked can also be dangerous, Berichon said.

“Kids learn how to open windows,” she said.

Prevention

Adding safety devices to windows can prevent kids from pushing the windows open beyond 4 inches. Berichon recommends parents use devices designed to prevent window falls, rather than crime prevention or security devices. Fall-prevention devices have ways for adults to bypass the locks in case of emergency, whereas other devices may require tools to remove, she said.

Device company KidCo has a window stop that is designed to only allow windows to open 4 inches and a mesh window guard that allows windows to open fully. Guardian Angel also has a window-guard device that fits a variety of types and sizes of windows.

All three products are available at the Randall Children’s Hospital Safety Center, which offers products below retail cost. Center staff also can provide education about the devices and hands-on practice.

In addition to safety devices, parents can take other steps to prevent window falls.

“I want families to think of layers of protection,” Berichon said.

Those layers include keeping all furniture, toys or anything else a child can climb away from windows and making sure windows are locked. Parents should also talk to their children about window safety, Berichon said. Tell children to keep play away from all windows — a child can’t differentiate the riskiness of a ground-floor window and a third-story window — and enforce the rule, she said.

In addition, parents should ask about window-safety practices at other places where their children spend time, such as friends and relatives houses, Berichon said. That not only protects their children but educates others about window falls, she said.

Children 1 to 7 years old are at highest risk for window falls, and more boys than girls fall from windows, but children of any age can be at risk, Berichon said. And in most cases, children fall when a screened window is unlocked and open and an adult is nearby, she said.

“One of the misperceptions people have is people aren’t watching their children,” Berichon said. “It’s not realistic to think someone with a 5-year-old will have eyes on them at all times.”

And while parents may expect that their children will know better than to play by windows or push on window screens, that doesn’t mean they won’t put themselves at risk, Berichon said.

“Children know better, but they may not always follow the rules,” she said. “And it’s their impulse behavior that gets them in trouble.”

Columbian Health Reporter
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