Tuesday, June 21, 2005

City acts to prevent
falls from buildings

Four recent accidents involving
kids prompt a public safety review

The city Emergency Medical Services Division is looking at how to keep children from falling from buildings in response to the number of toddlers who have suffered similar falls on Oahu.


Safety tips to prevent children from falling from windows or balconies:

» Lock doors to the lanai or balcony.
» Keep windows closed when children are around. If you need to open a window, open one that a child cannot reach. Parents might want to consider various alarms that alert you when sliding doors and windows are open.
» Install window guards on all windows above the first floor (excluding those that serve as fire emergency exits). Guards should have a quick-release mechanism that adults can open easily in a fire emergency.
» Keep items that children can climb far from windows and guardrails, including furniture, plant stands and shelving.
» Do not rely on insect screens to prevent falls. They are designed to keep insects out and are not strong enough to keep children in. Keep children away from all open windows with or without screens.
» Install approved window locks, and make sure everyone in the family knows how to open them in case of emergency. Do not nail windows shut.
» Keep window furnishings out of children's reach. Children can use draperies, window blinds and curtains to climb to an open window or can be strangled by loose cords.

Source: City Emergency Medical Services Division

"We are currently researching what injury prevention groups in other cities and states are doing to address the problem," said injury prevention coordinator Krista Hopkins Cole, of the Emergency Medical Services Division.

Officials are "at the very beginning stages" of the research, which is part of the city's child injury prevention and home safety project, she said.

Officials from EMS, the Keiki Injury Prevention Coalition and the Department of Emergency Medical Services at Kapiolani Community College are acting because four toddlers have fallen from buildings on Oahu in the last 10 months.

Scott Henry Toilolo Jr., who turns 2 next month, suffered a broken left leg Saturday after he fell from a fourth-story window of a Wahiawa residential apartment building. He was released from the Queen's Medical Center yesterday.

The other three accidents:

» On Feb. 20, 2-year-old Ashli Alcala-Romero fell four stories from a Nuuanu residential apartment building after she slipped through an aluminum railing. She suffered internal injuries and was released from the Queen's Medical Center after five days.
» Three-year-old Eddie Reiser III died Nov. 20 after he fell eight floors from his apartment balcony in Moiliili onto the second level of an open-air parking garage.
» On Aug. 9, 2-year-old Exodus Berger died in a fall from the 14th floor of a University Avenue apartment building.

From 1991 to 2004, there were eight deaths involving building falls among children 4 years old and under, according to Eric Tash, manager of the state Department of Health's Injury Prevention and Control Program. Seven deaths occurred in the Honolulu area, and one death occurred in Aiea.

Most of the deaths involved male toddlers, Tash said.

Of the eight deaths, four involved falls from lanais, and two in 1997 involved falls from windows. Information was not available on the remaining two cases, he said.

Tash noted that five of the eight victims fell from a height of at least six stories. Information was not available on the three other victims.

Fatal building falls among children are not as common as deaths from vehicle collisions or falls among seniors in the state, but "it's still a tragedy and a serious matter," he said.

"We're really lucky that it doesn't happen more frequently," Tash said.

From 1997 to 2003 there were 28 children 4 years old and under who fell from buildings and survived, he added. Tash described Toilolo as fortunate to survive the fall.

Tash said he is glad that the Emergency Medical Services Division is looking into building falls among children.

"It's important to address it," he said. "It's preventable."

E-mail to City Desk


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