With summer almost here and temperatures rising, throwing open the windows might seem like an easy way to cool down the kids — but after two separate cases of children falling out of windows in Everett, officials are warning about the dangers open windows can pose.
“This happens every summer,” said South Snohomish County Fire & Rescue spokeswoman Leslie Hynes, “and it can be prevented.”
Both falls happened Monday in unincorporated South Everett apartment complexes and involved boys 3 to 4 years old, according to the Fire Department. Medics transported one boy to Providence Everett Medical Center and the second to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.
A representative from Providence said they were unable to discuss the status of the first child. The second child was in satisfactory condition Wednesday at Harborview.
Dr. Brian Johnston, Harborview’s chief of pediatrics, estimated that Harborview will treat around 50 kids for injuries suffered in falls from windows this summer, noting that the hospital is already “well into the double digits” with such cases this year.
“We see these falls in the spring and summer when the weather gets warmer and people open their windows,” Johnston said. One reason, he said, is because Seattle has relatively low rates of air conditioning.
“Unattended children run the greatest risk of falls and injuries, so the best first step is to watch children as they play,” the Fire Department advised in a news release after the two incidents.
However, Johnston noted that in his experience, children who fall from windows were “almost always” being supervised at the time. It’s generally more an issue of parents not recognizing the danger of an open window than not being attentive, he said.
Because children can fall out of a window even if a screen has been installed, as was the case with one of the two Everett boys, parents are urged not to rely on screens to prevent falls.
“Screens … are to keep the bugs out, not the kids in,” Hynes said.
The Fire Department also advised keeping furniture away from windows and for parents to install window guards. If window guards are too expensive or unattractive, Johnston said, window stops are a suitable alternative.
The 2017-2019 strategic plan for the Central Region EMS and Trauma Care Council (authorized by the Washington Department of Health to coordinate trauma care in King County) notes that the council voted in 2017 to provide $5,000 for “the purchase of window stops to reduce pediatric window falls” in the area.
The equivalent plan for the North Region, which includes Snohomish County and Everett, does not discuss childhood window falls and instead focuses on “fall prevention in the elderly population.” Meanwhile, the plan for the West Region — which includes Grays Harbor, Lewis, North Pacific, Pierce and Thurston counties — reports that Tacoma’s Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital had a nearly 50 percent decrease in child window falls a year after receiving a 2015 grant to support prevention programs.
Department of Health data indicates that building-related falls made up an increasing percentage of all pediatric-trauma incidents between 1999 and 2013, with children between the ages of one and six those most affected.
Of the 333 statewide incidents of window-balcony falls by children one to six reported from 2011 to 2013, 37 percent occurred in the Central Region and 27 percent occurred in the West Region. The North Region was responsible for 14 percent.
Of the 333 incidents, two ended in death.