There’s no way to hear the story about rock guitarist Eric Clapton’s 4-year-old son, Conor, without being overcome with shock and sadness.
Conor fell 49 stories to his death in New York City in March 1991 after a maintenance worker opened a 6-by-4-foot window in the apartment where Conor was staying with his mother on vacation. According to the New York Times, Conor, unaware the window was open, ran across the room and fell through the opening. The window did not have a protective apparatus around it.
This tragedy is well known because it involved a public figure, but falls from windows are more common than people might think. According to the Safe Kids Worldwide 2015 Report to the Nation: Protecting Children in Your Home, about eight children under age 5 die each year from falling out a window, and more than 3,300 are injured seriously enough to go to the hospital.
The National Safety Council Window Safety Task Force offers these suggestions to help protect children:
- Remember, there is no substitute for adult supervision when it comes to window safety; keep an eye on children and keep their play safely away from windows
- Keep windows closed and locked when children are present
- When opening windows for ventilation, make sure children can't reach them
- For a double-hung window on an upper floor of the home, open the top sash nearest the ceiling for ventilation while keeping the bottom sash closed
- Don't rely on insect screens to prevent a fall; they are not designed to withstand the weight of a person
- Keep furniture away from windows as they could tempt a curious child to climb and potentially fall
- Don't allow children to jump on beds or other furniture, which could lead to a fall
- If there are young children in the home, install ASTM-approved fall prevention devices on limited-opening hardware, which only allows a window to open a few inches
NSC, along with window and door industry professionals and other safety advocates, formed the
Window Safety Task Force in 1997 to educate caregivers about window safety.
Since its inception, the Task Force has distributed thousands of information kits with tips for preventing falls and using windows as emergency escape routes. These efforts seek to decrease residential fire deaths.
Windows Save Lives
According to most residential building codes, bedrooms and other sleeping areas must have a secondary means of escape in case of fire or smoke, and that exit is often a window.
Just having windows designated for escape is not enough; they also must be safe and accessible.