The arrival of spring is evident in many ways for David Schmitke. One sign of the changing seasons is the arrival of osprey, another is the longer days.
“The other one is kids start falling out of windows,” said Schmitke, the public education coordinator for Clark County Fire District 6.
It’s unclear how many children fall from windows in Clark County. The falls aren’t tracked by any one agency, and the calls to 911 are logged under various categories. But Schmitke doesn’t need hard numbers to know it happens far too often.
“It is very, very common,” he said. “I guarantee you it will happen.”
And the severity of injuries run the gamut, from broken limbs to concussions or more severe head injuries, Schmitke said.
That’s why Fire District 6 is teaming up with Clark County Public Health to not only urge people to use safety devices on their windows but to distribute free window stops to anyone who needs them.
Window safety devices are available for purchase at the Tom Sargent Safety Center at Doernbecher Children’s Hospital and the Randall Children’s Hospital Safety Center at Legacy Emanuel Medical Center. (They can also be purchased through online retailers.)
The safety centers also have staff who can answer questions about the best devices for your windows.
- Doernbecher Tom Sargent Safety Center, 700 S.W. Campus Drive, Portland. Open 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. or by appointment. 503-418-5666.
- Randall Children’s Hospital Safety Center, 501 N Graham St., Portland. Open 9 a.m. to noon or by appointment. 503-413-4600.
Other window-fall prevention resources:
“If we get some installed and keep some kids from falling, we’ve done our job,” said Anne Johnston, public health nurse.
Safety devices that can prevent kids from pushing windows open more than 4 inches — the widest that windows should be open when children are present — will be available for pickup from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday at the Fire District 6 headquarters, 8800 N.E. Hazel Dell Ave.
The devices — made by baby product company KidCo — come in packs of two and will be available first-come, first-served. The fire district has about 70 sets to distribute; grant money was used to purchase the devices.
“I wish I had more, but it’s until supplies last,” Johnston said. (The sets are also available on Amazon for less than $10, she said.)
Tips for window safety
Health officials recommend keeping all windows closed and locked when not in use, especially those more than 6 feet off of the ground, which pose a fall risk. Opened windows should be limited to 4 inches — any greater opening and there’s a risk of a child squeezing his or her head through — and should have a window-safety device, Johnston said. Window screens, she said, are not sufficient.
“Screens are designed to keep bugs out, not keep kids in,” Johnston said.
Kids are top-heavy, Johnston said. When a curious child pushes against a window screen, or leans out open windows, it doesn’t take much for the weight of their head to propel their body through the window, she said.
“It’s one of those hidden safety hazards a lot of people don’t think about,” Johnston said.
Window safety devices can prevent kids from pushing the windows open more than 4 inches and allow adults to bypass the locks in case of emergency without using tools.
In addition to the window stops, KidCo also makes a mesh window guard that allows windows to open fully. And device company Guardian Angel has a window guard that fits a variety of types and sizes of windows.
Window safety devices should be used in any room where kids congregate and with windows that pose a fall risk, such as bedrooms and family rooms, Johnston said. It’s not enough to assume children will always be under adult supervision, she said.
“You can’t guarantee that,” Johnston said. “No one can have 100 percent supervision the whole time.”
Health officials also recommend keeping the areas in front of windows clear of anything children can climb on, including furniture and toys. In addition, they suggest making the space in front of windows a kid-free zone and enforcing the rule at home and when guests in others’ homes.
Health officials say such precautions can keep kids safe while still allowing families to enjoy open windows.