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Volume 6   Issue 2                March 2005

CODE/CONCERNS

Windows Equal Life Safety
by Michael Fischer

The end of April signals the approach of summer. Spring is in full bloom, and it won’t be long until school is out. 

It is no coincidence that the National Safety Council (NSC) has designated the last week in April as Window Safety Week. This year, April 24 through 30 marks another opportunity to raise awareness about the importance of window safety and educate caregivers and others on how to prevent child falls from open windows. 

Open Windows Beckon
“The timing of National Safety Week each year is very important,” said Alan C. McMillan, president and chief executive officer of NSC. “We schedule the release of window and door safety information to coincide with spring—the time of year when homeowners are again opening their windows. This is the perfect time to remind caregivers that open windows can pose the risk of falls for young, unsupervised children,” McMillan said. 

Education to caregivers about the importance of supervision combined with some simple pointers about the proper role of windows in today’s homes can go a long way to avoid injuries to children from falls. During the recent International Builder’s Show (IBS), the NSC hosted a booth targeted at homebuilders. Educational materials, including window safety tips, checklists, child activity books and brochures were distributed to thousands of homebuilders.

During IBS, a representative from Pella Corp. was on hand to provide a live demonstration of the importance of windows in escape and rescue from fires. John Woestman, code compliance manager for Pella, and also a volunteer firefighter in his hometown of Monroe, Iowa, donned emergency gear and showed how firefighters and occupants can safely step through window openings during emergencies. 

“The IBS demonstration allowed the Window Safety Task Force to spread the message to builders from all over the country—and the world—about the role windows play in fire safety,” Woestman said. He added: “By using an actual window in our mock-up, we gave a clear picture of how simple it is to step through to safety.” 

The NSC educational messages for Window Safety Week include the following:
• Windows provide a secondary means of escape from a burning home. Determine and practice your family’s emergency escape plan. Remember that children may have to know how to safely use a window to escape in a fire;
• Make sure that windows are not painted or nailed shut;
• Keep windows closed and locked when children are around. For ventilation, open windows that a child cannot reach;
• Keep children’s play away from windows or patio doors. Falling through the glass can be fatal or cause serious injury;
• Keep furniture—or anything children can climb—away from windows. Children may use such objects as a climbing aid;
• If you have young children in your home and are considering installing window guards or window fall prevention devices, be aware that the window guards you install must have a release mechanism so that they can be opened for escape. Consult your local fire department or building code official to determine proper window guard placement;
• Some homes may have window guards, security bars, grills or grates already covering their windows. Those windows are useless in an emergency if the devices on them do not have a functioning release mechanism;
• Do not install window air conditioners in windows that may be needed for escape or rescue in an emergency. The air conditioning unit could impede escape. Always be sure that you have at least one window in each sleeping and living area that meets escape and rescue requirements; and
• The degree of injury sustained from a window fall can be affected by the surface below. Shrubs and soft edging like wood chips or grass beneath windows may lessen the impact. 

Michael Fischer serves as director of codes and regulatory compliance for the Window and Door Manufacturers Association based in Des Plaines, Ill.

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