Warmer weather brings increased risk of window falls

A 5-year-old was critically injured when he fell from a second-story window Saturday. It’s the fourth fall this year.

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MARYSVILLE — A 5-year-old boy fell out of a second-story window and was critically injured on Saturday, according to Christie Veley, spokesperson with the Marysville Fire District.

Paramedics took him to Providence Regional Medical Center Everett. Further updates about the boy’s condition were not available Wednesday.

He is the fourth child in Snohomish County taken to the hospital after falling out a window this year. Last year, 22 children fell out of windows, a record for the county. Injuries from those falls included skull fractures, brain bleeds, and a spinal cord injury, said Shawneri Guzman, South County Fire’s community outreach manager.

Such falls happen every year, mostly in the summer when warm weather leads to more open windows, said Guzman, who is also coordinator for Safe Kids Snohomish County, which implements evidence-based programs that aim to prevent childhood injuries.

“The nicer the weather, the higher the incidence of window falls,” she said.

It’s not just upper-story windows that pose a risk. Veley cited a 2012 case in which a fall from a first-floor window left a child critically injured.

“What’s so surprising to a lot of people is how bad an injury from just a short fall can be,” she said.

There’s a risk created by a window open more than four inches, even if there’s a screen.

“It’s easy to think that when there is a screen on a window, that that’s going to hold in a small child,” said Veley, “but screens aren’t built for that.”

Guzman explained window screens can only withstand around five pounds of pressure. She said parents should know “screens are designed to keep bugs out, not kids in.”

Screens can give parents a false sense of security, said Providence Everett Medical Director Dr. Bryce Snow, who specializes in emergency medicine. He said his emergency department regularly sees young children who have fallen out of windows, with injuries ranging from small bruises to severe skull fractures.

Snow has first-hand experience as a parent as his son fell out of a second-story window when he was around four years old.

His son suffered just a few scrapes. Still, Snow said it was a scary experience, both “as a parent and as an emergency medicine physician.”

Fire departments across the county have been trying to raise awareness about window falls, encouraging families to install locks or stops that prevent windows from being opened more than four inches. People can buy the devices for as little as $5 at most hardware stores. Fire departments and districts offer them for free, including Everett, Marysville, and South County.

Even with those safeguards, there’s still a risk. Snow said the window his son fell out of was locked. The four-year-old managed to undo and remove the lock.

Veley said parents can reduce the risk of falls by talking to their kids about the dangers of playing or sitting on window sills and by keeping furniture away from windows to prevent children from reaching them.

“If more parents are aware of the dangers, then we can possibly make some strides in preventing more of these incidents,” Veley said.

Guzman said that most window falls happen when children are left unsupervised, but that isn’t always the case.

“It just takes a moment to turn your head and a child could get themself in trouble,” he said.

Natalie Kahn: 425-339-3430; natalie.kahn@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @nataliefkahn.

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