Children falling from windows and lanais happens all too often.
The Hawaii Department of Health estimates about 80 falls per year on Oahu alone.
In 2011, a young child died after falling out of a window in military housing on Oahu.
On Friday, legislation was introduced on Capitol Hill to make windows in military homes safer for kids.
Jason and Ami English and their kids now live on the mainland, but back in 2011, Jason English was stationed at Pearl Harbor and they lived on Aliamanu Military Reservation.
Their son, Evan, died after falling out of a second-floor window after the screen gave way. He was four and a half years old.
“Other families do not have to feel this grief, and they can plan a birthday instead of a funeral,” said Ami English.
U.S. Rep. Mike Turner, R, Ohio, introduced Evan’s Law, a bill that would require the Department of Defense to equip military housing with window fall protection devices, such as window guards.
“This is a basic safety issue, where really we had gotten lax,” Turner said. “We had been providing the security and the safety for families and their children in this housing. We stepped back from that.”
“It was just a shock to our system that so many falls had happened and nothing had been done,” said Jason English.
Honolulu attorney Wayne Parsons represented the English family in a lawsuit against the U.S. government.
“After the lawsuit was over, we all worked together and I brought in some consultants to try and get changes in the codes and the laws, and now the defense department is looking at making a change that could protect children in all military family housing,” Parsons said.
Even though Evan’s Law is specifically for military housing, you may want to consider installing window protection devices if you have young children and live in a multi-story home, condominium, or apartment.
It’s also a good idea to keep furniture away from windows, plant bushes or grass below windows to help buffer a fall, if possible, and never depend on insect screens to prevent falls.
“I think the family wanted to see changes for the safety of other military families so that nobody had to go through what they went through when Evan died,” Parsons said.
Most of the kids who fall out of windows are around Evan’s age.
“It’s a problem everywhere, but particularly a problem in Hawaii, because it’s warm here and people open up their windows, and so there’s more of a possibility it could happen,” Parsons said.
Congressman Turner is working to include Evan’s Law in the National Defense Authorization Act. The House is expected to vote on it in the next couple of weeks.