Window Safety Week Serves as a Much-Needed Reminder

Rich Walker
March 24, 2011
COLUMN : Industry Watch

Last May, a three-year-old boy fell from a third-story window at a Connecticut apartment after pushing out a screen. The very next day in a nearby town a two-year-old boy fell from a third-floor apartment window after a screen became dislodged. Both toddlers died.

Also last May, a three-year-old Petaluma, Calif., boy was critically injured when falling from a second-story window after the screen gave way.

These and many more such instances have occurred just since last April’s Window Safety Week, an annual event that is sponsored by the Window Safety Task Force, made up of the American Architectural Manufacturers Association, the Window and Door Manufacturers Association and the Screen Manufacturers Association, in cooperation with the National Association of Home Builders. Clearly, we still need to get the word out that Window Safety Week focuses on a literal life-or-death issue. This year, Window Safety Week is April 3 through 9, and based on the above, the window safety message still needs telling.

Window Safety Week is held each year, during the first full week in April, when the springtime weather turns warmer and windows are opened to air out winter stuffiness. During this time, the number of window fall accidents increases. Many such accidents, including the ones cited above, occur at the beginning of the warmer weather season.

But there is another aspect of window safety beyond mitigating the risk of falls, and that is to preserve the function of windows as potential emergency exits. Fall prevention and fire safety concerns must be balanced. Note, for example, that while windows with guards, security bars, grilles or grates will likely prevent falls, the windows are useless in an emergency if the devices on them do not have a release mechanism as now required by the International Residential Code.

And that is the essential purpose of Window Safety Week–to heighten the awareness of what can be done to help keep homes and families safer from the risk of accidental falls, as well as from fires.

A quick look at the sad news stories points out perhaps the single most important common element of the fall risk: insect screens should not be relied on to prevent a fall. Insect screens are designed to provide ventilation while keeping insects out; they are not designed to, nor will they, prevent a child's fall from a window.

For more information on fire egress, visit the National Fire Protection Association’s site at www.nfpa.org. Information on planning a home fire drill, as well as other information on addressing home security and fire issues, including how to involve children, is available through the NFPA site.

Window Safety Week emphasizes that the best first step is for parents and caregivers to watch children as they play. Nothing can substitute for responsible adult supervision. When youngsters are around, parents are cautioned to close and lock windows and, if ventilation is needed, open only windows that children cannot reach. Caregivers are also encouraged to set and enforce rules about keeping children's play away from windows or patio doors.

Two essential educational resources are available free of charge from the WSTF at www.aamanet.org/windowsafety:

  • "Keeping the Promise of Safety" brochure. Larger quantities (minimum of 100), may be ordered at no cost from the National Safety Council by contacting NSC Customer Service at 800-621-7619 and citing product number 00006-6215.
  • The Window Safety Information Kit, which includes the “Keeping the Promise of Safety” brochure, a window safety tip sheet and check list and a window safety activity and coloring book is available in digital format at www.aamanet.org/windowsafety, and a physical copy can be ordered by contacting the NSC and citing product number 00006-6210.

Window manufacturers may want to provide these free resources to their customers (builders, dealers and remodelers) for use with consumers as a public service. Your “good PR” could truly make a life-changing difference for a child.

Rich Walker is president and CEO of the American Architectural Manufacturers Association, 847/303-5664, rwalker@aamanet.org.