A child is recovering after falling from an open window this week in Burnaby in what could have been a family’s worst nightmare. The incident has sparked calls by health officials urging parents to take preventative measures as the weather warms up.
According to RCMP, a three-year-old fell 20 feet from a second floor window on Wednesday night (June 24). In a statement, police said the parent was getting their children read for bed when the child left the room unnoticed.
The parent discovered the child moments later on the ground outside the home. They were rushed to BC Children’s Hospital and suffered only minor injuries, police said.
So far this year, BC Children’s Hospital has already treated nine children for falling from windows or balconies. Tragically, one of the children died from their injuries.
In 2019, 14 children under 16 years old were treated at the Vancouver-based hospital for falls from high elevations. More than three quarters of these falls each year happen between April and September, when the weather is warmer.
The pandemic has kept families in their homes more than ever, making window and balcony safety top of mind for Dr. Ash Singhal, a pediatric neurosurgeon at BC Children’s.
Regardless of the severity of injuries, a single instance of a children falling through a window can impact the entire family, says Singhal.
“In the days and weeks after we treat a child, we see the incredible personal and emotional impacts of the injury on the child and parents, grandparents and on all the care givers,” Singhal explained. “We want to try to help prevent that from happening again.”
The hospital is offering a number of safety tips to parents and guardians, including:
- Don’t leave children unattended on balconies or decks.
- Move furniture and planters – or anything that can be climbed on – away from windows, balcony railings and balcony door handles. Lock balcony doors.
- Install window guards on windows above the ground floor. Fasten windows so that they cannot open more than 10 centimetres wide but ensure there is a safety release.
- Talk to your children about the dangers of opening or playing near windows, particularly on upper floors.
Toddlers are most vulnerable to window falls
Head injuries and fractures to shoulders and upper arms are the most common injuries sustained from falls. Ninety per cent of the time it’s a child aged six or younger.
Toddlers are especially vulnerable to window falls because they are curious and love to climb but also have a higher centre of gravity than babies so they can easily fall headfirst through a window screen if they lean against it, BC Children’s said in a news release.
Paramedic specialist Ole Olsen said taking measures to better protect children in their home can prevent serious safety hazards.
“I think that’s one of the most tragic calls that a paramedic or a first responder can attend to, especially knowing a few simple actions can make a home more secure for children and prevent devastating falls.”
If a child has fallen more than 1.5 metres, or five feet, and has lost consciousness or is vomiting they may have sustained a head injury and 911 should be called immediately.
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