Over the decade that we’ve been talking to British Columbians about preventable injuries, we’ve heard a lot of stories about why people get hurt:
“I didn’t know about the risks.”
“It all happened so fast.”
“I thought I knew what I was doing.”
Often, it simply comes down to this: we never imagine something bad happening to ourselves.
The following story illustrates a critical point: serious injuries don’t just happen to “other people.” They can—and do—happen to us. This family came forward to share their story in hope that other parents learn from their experience, and take precautions to keep their little ones safe at home:
“We did our job as parents: we safety-proofed our house, we took all the precautions necessary. We trusted this meant our child will always be safe.
Then we had had a sleepless night after a long day of travelling. Our bedroom was hot—we couldn’t get comfortable. Just for that one night, we disabled the child lock on the second story bedroom window so we could fully open it and get some cooler air into the room. We reminded ourselves to lock the window again the next morning when we got up.
Like most children, our son wandered into our room in the early morning hours to be close to us. Any parent knows, you can’t always predict what a child is going to do—you just can’t be awake at all hours of the day to keep an eye on them and keep them safe—especially not after a long, exhausting day.
That morning, our son felt something different in our room. He inched closer toward the open window. He hadn’t been home in a while; he spotted his favourite toy in the yard. He took a closer look, leaning against the soft blind . . . and then it happened.
We were lucky—our son will make a full recovery. But not without a lot of stress and pain.
We feel that it’s important to share our story to educate others – we aren’t bad parents, we are not ashamed. This could happen to anyone.
We parents need to support each other in our efforts to raise our children in safe environments. We never wish for our children to get hurt, but one split second is all it takes for an injury to happen and the regret of a lifetime.”
Parents are among the most careful, safety-conscious people out there, but sadly, this family is not alone in their experience. Over 130 children were treated at a trauma centre in BC after falling from a window or balcony between 2010 and 2016.1
We’d like to thank this family for coming forward with their difficult story; we hope it will provide a reminder to parents and caregivers to take a closer look at the safety measures they have in place to prevent window or balcony falls as temperatures rise and we open our windows to stay cool.
What can you do?1
- As every parent or caregiver knows, young children are naturally curious. They love to explore, and they’ll take the opportunity to do so whenever they can. Instead of thinking “That could never happen . . .” operate under the assumption that yes, it could.
- Remember that children can climb before they can walk.
- Move furniture and planters away from the window or balcony so that children cannot climb up and over the edge.
- Remember: screens will not prevent a fall. Instead, install window guards or fasten windows so that they cannot open wider than 10 cm. Just make sure there’s a safety release in case of fire.
1. Keep kids safe – protect children from window falls as temperatures rise in BC. BC Children’s Hospital news release, May 11, 2018. Retrieved from: http://www.bcchildrens.ca/about/news-stories/news/2017/keep-kids-safe-–-protect-children-from-window-falls-as-temperatures-rise-in-bc