‘No parent ever wants this’: BC Children’s Hospital renews window, balcony safety campaign

BC Children's Hospital pediatric neurosurgeon Dr. Faizal Haji (left) demonstrates use of a window lock with paramedic Brian Twaites during an annual children's fall prevention campaign in Vancouver on Mon. May 15, 2023. Global News

With hot weather drawing more families to crack open windows and spend time on balconies, the BC Children’s Hospital is renewing its annual safety campaign to prevent children from falling.

To date this year, the Vancouver hospital has treated five children for falls from windows. Last year, it treated 19, continuing a two-year upward trend.

“No one ever expects that this is going to happen and no parent ever wants this to happen for their child,” said pediatric neurosurgeon Faizal Haji on Monday. “The ones that I treat most commonly are the head injuries but there can also be injuries including fractures to the shoulders and upper arms.

“These injuries can be quite severe and in some cases, unfortunately, children have died.”

Click to play video: 'Father has message for other parents after toddler falls from Langley window'
Father has message for other parents after toddler falls from Langley window

Children most commonly fall from balconies between the ages of three and six, Haji added. In that age range, their heads are proportionally large for their bodies, resulting a higher centre of gravity that makes it easier to fall forward.

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“Kids are naturally curious. They love to climb, they love to explore … Just because they can’t walk doesn’t mean they can’t fall out of a window.”

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The hospital is encouraging parents and caregivers to add window opening control devices or guards that prevent them from opening more than 10 centimetres to all windows above the first floor. They can also keep furniture away from balconies or windows that would give children something to climb on.

Screens for keeping out bugs aren’t strong enough to prevent a fall, Haji said.

Window locks are available at most hardware stores for between $5 and $30.

Click to play video: 'Keep children safe around windows and balconies'
Keep children safe around windows and balconies

Brian Twaites, paramedic public information officer for BC Emergency Health Services, said he has responded to between 10 and 20 calls for children falling from dangerous heights in his career.

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“These do happen on a frequent basis,” he told Global News.

“It’s an accident and it’s a bit of oversight. Everybody’s very busy and little things like this can slip people’s minds … it’s an omission that can be avoided.”

In child-proofing their homes, he said parents often remember to cover electrical outlets and lock up cupboards. He encouraged all to add window locks to the list in that process.

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