After son falls out window, parents become safety advocates
Thomas Cunningham was 3-years-old when he fell from a second-floor window and cracked his skull on the concrete below. The window screen had come out of the sill. Now the parents are spreading awareness during National Window Safety Week.
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"We are very lucky, but that's not the point," Becca said. "That's probably not what would happen to the next kid or the next."Skip to next paragraph
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In the U.S., about 3,300 kids younger than 6 fall from windows each year, according to the STOP at 4 campaign; 70 percent of those falls are from second- and third-story windows.
"Even falls from first-floor windows can pose safety risks," said Anne Johnston, public health nurse and Safe Kids Clark County coordinator.
So far this year, three children have fallen out of windows, including a 1-year-old boy who fell last month from a second-story apartment window and landed on soil. The boy was crying and alert when emergency crews arrived.
In 2012, at least seven children fell out of windows, Johnston said. Clark County Public Health is working with American Medical Response to gather data and follow trends on window falls.
Children younger than 4 are most at risk because they're short and top heavy, said Sandy Nipper, registered nurse and Child Safety Coordinator at Emanuel. Young children don't have well-developed impulse control and can't anticipate danger, she said.
If a kid falls onto a bush, they may be able to walk away from a fall with just a scratch. But window falls can result in broken bones, traumatic brain injuries or even death, depending on how and where they fall. The STOP at 4 campaign was dedicated to Parker Reck, a 4-year-old Molalla, Ore., boy who died in 2009 after falling from a second-story window onto concrete.
While at Emanuel, the Keen Cunninghams were introduced to window safety products at The Safety Store in the hospital's atrium.
They bought a pair of KidCo window stops that prevent the window from opening more than 4 inches. They also installed window guards on the twins' bedroom window; these metal bars prevent children from falling out and have quick-release harnesses in case of emergency.
"We take a lot of the fault for having not protected (Thomas)," Becca said. "Other people are still in the position where they can prevent it from happening. We can never erase our guilt and sadness and loss."
At the time of the fall, Becca didn't know about window guards or stops. When she read the window locks section in Washington's Child Profile, she assumed her standard locks worked just fine. She suspects other parents don't understand the difference between window locks and windows with after-market safety features.
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To help kids learn about window safety, Becca wrote a children's book. The book, written from Zane's perspective, talks about what the family could have had in the backyard to prevent Thomas from getting hurt. She got the ideas from her kids and their friends. While a bouncy house, a trampoline, an inflatable suit or a backyard full of peanut butter would be great, the book points out that's not real. Zane recognizes that his parents now know what to do and how to keep him safe.
After finding someone to illustrate the book, Becca plans to submit the book to publishers, hoping there's a niche for this topic. She hasn't found a children's book that focuses on window safety.