Window falls have been on the rise in Boston.

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How To Prevent Window Falls In Boston And Surrounding Areas

July 7, 2017

A 6-year-old Dorchester child fell out a third-story window early this morning. Reports are that she's expected to recover, but it’s the latest in a rash of kids falling out of windows now that the weather has turned warm. On Monday, a 5-year-old in Brookline died from her injuries, and just two days before that, in Quincy, a 5-year-old boy survived a fall from a seven-story window. That followed two other window falls: a 3-year-old Framingham girl and 2-year-old Chelsea boy, both expected to recover. The Centers for Disease control says falls are the leading cause of non-fatal injuries. WGBH's All Things Considered host Barbara Howard spoke about this and how to prevent falls with Eugene Barros from the Boston Public Health Commission.

Barbara Howard: According to the group, Kids Safe Worldwide, window falls account for eight deaths and approximately 3,000 injuries among children 5 and under each year nationally. You say that most of these falls take place in low-income areas. Why is that?

Eugene Barros: What the statistics show is that minorities, African-Americans and Latinos, tend to live in rental housing.

Barbara Howard: In New York, landlords with three or more units are required to provide window guards when there are kids under 10 living in the unit. Why doesn’t Boston or other surrounding communities have rules like that?

Eugene Barros: Boston has a city ordinance that strongly encourages landlords to install window guards, but in Massachusetts, our housing and sanitary code does not mandate that.

Barbara Howard: Public housing run by the City of Boston does allow parents with kids under a certain age to get window guards by request. Is that correct?

Eugene Barros: Yes. The Boston Housing Authority will install them in any unit with children under 7.

Barbara Howard: What about Section 8 housing or other housing provided for low income families?

Eugene Barros: Window guards are not mandated in Section 8 housing because those are private landlords, but we work closely with them to promote window guards and make them available at a discounted rate so that landlords can install them in their units.

Barbara Howard: What about families that are not low-income but live in high-rises? Are those landlords required to install window guards when small children are present?

Eugene Barros: They are not, but based on our experience, most large landlords voluntarily put them in once they’re asked by their tenants.

Barbara Howard: New York City requires them to be put in place if tenants ask for them. Is there any similar legislation pending here in Massachusetts?

Eugene Barros: The sanitary code is up for revision and that’s one of the things we will consider inserting into the sanitary code. It’s not in the code now, but we think it’s a no-brainer that window guards should be in every unit that’s over 12 feet off the ground when a child under 7 lives there.

Barbara Howard: If you’re a parent and you want to put these window guards up, can your landlord or condo association prevent you from doing that?

Eugene Barros: Different condo associations have different bylaws. Usually tenants have to ask their landlords because the bars do need to be installed in the bottom of the window, but in our experience, if tenants want to buy them, landlords won’t prevent them from installing them.

Barbara Howard: How much do window guards cost?

Eugene Barros: They are somewhat expensive. It varies on the window size. They can run anywhere from $35 to $75. In the City of Boston, we subsidize them and make low-cost window guards available for Boston residents at a 50 percent discount. 

Barbara Howard: Do you have any advice for parents? What are some common sense things they could be doing?

Eugene Barros: Number one is to install window guards if they live on any floor that’s over 12 feet off the ground if they have children under 7, and just to make sure that people understand that window screens may keep flies and insects outside of the house, but they do not keep children inside. We recommend that people keep furniture away from windows, like beds and other things that kids can climb on, and then opening windows only from the top is always a good practice.

The City of Boston subsidizes window guards sold through the non-profit Boston Building Resources.

The Boston Public Health Commission offers safety tips and guidelines for preventing window falls.


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