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Volume 7   Issue 2               February 2006

CODE/CONCERN


Priority Delivery: 
The Window Safety Message

by Michael Fischer

The National Safety Councilís (NSC) Window Safety Task Force is stepping up its efforts to reduce child falls from windows. While injuries and deaths to children from these types of falls have been on the decline over the past decade, the NSC has committed to continuing the fight and educating the public and the industry. The window industry, partnering with the NSC, is also at the forefront of efforts to improve the safe use of window products.

Educational Efforts

Representatives from the Window Safety Task Force attended the International Builders Show (IBS) in Orlando recently and staffed a booth focusing on window safety. Volunteers from the task force provided educational materials to IBS attendees, who are builders and other industry members, and shared information about the numerous resources available that spread the message of window safety. Builders are a key part of safety efforts, because they are in prime position to share safety messages with new homeowners. 

The NSC task force includes representatives from the Window and Door Manufacturers Association, the American Architectural Manu-facturers Association, the National Association of Home Builders, the Screen Manufacturers Association and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), as well as volunteers from industry member companies. The safety advocacy work of the task force is important, but recent direction promises to expand the role of the task force even further.

In a recent meeting, the task force reviewed plans for 2006. In addition to the effort aimed at builders during IBS, the group focused on developing communications activities for the year. Participation in the NSC Congress and continued work with other stakeholders including the SafeKids Coalition, NFPA and the Timothy Healy Foundation is another important facet of the multi-pronged approach to improving window safety.

Gathering Data

As the task force looks ahead, however, perhaps the most significant planned activity is a renewed effort to study child fall and residential fire data. The task force continues to be charged with reducing child falls, but is also concerned about other aspects of window safety. Windows that serve as emergency escape and rescue openings are an important part of home fire safety. As part of the home escape plans recommended by fire safety advocates, windows fulfill a critical function during home fires. For that reason, residential building codes include strict requirements for minimum sizes of these designated openings, requiring that each sleeping room provide such an alternate means of escape or rescue. Code provisions also typically require that such openings be located within safe reach of occupants, usually no more than 44 inches above the floor. 

The available data on child falls is collected at the regional level (typically by trauma centers or emergency rooms) and then shared with the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) through the National Emergency Injury Surveillance System (NEISS). Unfortunately, the level of detail in the NEISS data requires a significant amount of review, often on a case-by-case basis. For example, preliminary data released by NEISS for 2004 included five child window falls that actually occurred during residential fires, when children used the window to escape injury or death from fire or smoke. The Window Safety Task Force plans to work with the CPSC to improve the quality of data on child window falls, and with key medical providers in select markets. By looking at specific geographic regions, the task force hopes to be able to improve the level of detail and gather more specific data to identify contributing factors.

Because emergency escape and rescue are such important aspects of window safety, the task force also plans to review the size and location of these openings and gather data about the nature of their use during residential fires. The involvement of the NFPA and the NFPA Research Foundation, also part of the task force, will help the group plan, collect and analyze information. Only by continued study will the task force be able to improve safety efforts.

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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