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Preventing window and balcony falls

With warm weather’s arrival, BC Emergency Health Services is reminding parents and caregivers to keep children safe near windows and balconies, especially with the increased confinement during COVID-19.
Paramedics arrive at the scene of a call
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“I can tell you from my own experience as a paramedic for the past 13 years, window and balcony falls are a common, tragic incident that our first responders face,” says Paramedic Specialist Ryan Stefani. 

Last year, 14 children were treated at BC Children’s Hospital emergency department for falls from windows and balconies. Most falls involve children under age seven (91%). The vast majority occur at home and happen between April and September. 

Children at a windowToddlers are especially vulnerable to window falls because they are curious, love to climb and often don’t recognize when they are putting themselves at risk. The injuries children sustain from falls from windows or balconies are head injuries and fractures to shoulders and upper arms. 

If a child has fallen over five feet from a window or balcony and lost consciousness or is vomiting, call 9-1-1 immediately. Most head injuries require immediate medical attention and receiving emergency medical care from paramedics is a good first step.

“Often, when arriving on the scene of a window fall there is a lot of chaos and confusion,” says Stefani. “The parents are distraught and crying as loud as the child. After paramedics arrive, you can often see the immense sense of guilt set in with the parents as they wonder if their child will be okay and realize this could have been prevented.”

To reduce and prevent window or balcony falls, take the following steps:

  • Don’t leave children unattended on balconies or decks. 
  • Move furniture or planters away from the edges as kids can climb up and over. Place furniture away from windows and balcony door handles and be sure to lock balcony doors. 
  • Know that window screens will not prevent a fall. It’s essential to install window guards or fasten windows so that they can’t open wider than 10 cm. Children can fit through spaces as small as 12 cm wide. Just make sure there’s a safety release in case of fire.
  • Talk to your children about the dangers of opening or playing near windows, particularly on upper floors of the home or in a high-rise dwelling.
Taking these measures today can prevent devastating falls. 
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