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April-May-June 2002

WDMA Opens Up

Window Safety Awareness
        Keeping the ‘Big Picture’ in Focus
By Alan Campbell

When Eric Clapton’s young son fell from a Manhattan skyscraper several years ago, window safety was first on everyone’s mind, due to Clapton’s celebrity. Although that incident has long since passed, the WDMA continues to keep the issue at the forefront, focusing on educating member companies and consumers about the importance of window safety.

Technical items, codes and standards and other topics may receive more noticeable attention than this subject matter. But it deserves its share, and the window industry is committed to a focused campaign to inform the general public, and parents in particular, of safety issues pertaining to windows.

Collective Efforts Work
As part of its ongoing work in this area, the WDMA attended Consumer Product Safety Commission meetings in Washington, D.C., along with representatives of the American Architectural Manufacturers Association, the Screen Manufacturers Association, the National Safety Council (NSC) and others. Everyone was eager to find a way to make a safer window. However, ideas on how to design a “safe window” were tempered by the issue of life safety and the need for quick and easy egress in the event of a fire. It became apparent that any attempt to reduce one potential hazard would only shift and create another.

The window industry joined forces collectively, convinced that the issue was more of proper education on the part of the public rather than any inherent design flaws in windows. To educate the public, WDMA and the organizations named above created a Window Safety Alliance. Some of our efforts included press releases and other publicity targeted at magazines and other media.

Promising Safety
Additionally, we created the brochure, “Keeping the Promise of Safety.” The publication outlines easy tips to assure window safety: for example, opening the top sash of a double-hung window rather than the bottom to allow for fresh air, which may prevent a toddler from crawling to the opening and pushing on the screen. The brochure also emphasizes that these falls can be prevented—that small children need to be monitored in the presence of an open window and that insect screens withstand the impact of an insect, not a child.

The brochure also urges parents to teach their children that windows are the proper means of escape from bedrooms, with an escape ladder for example, and older children should learn how to operate the window and the ladder properly in the event of an emergency. Parents and caregivers need to check their windows to make sure they are operable, and not painted shut, for example, or blocked by window air-conditioning units, so these products can also serve as life-safety exits.

“Keeping the Promise of Safety,” has been distributed through the NSC and its chapters across the nation and to many schools and community organizations. As a public service, several WDMA members have ordered quantities of the brochure to distribute to their dealers and other interested parties. (Call the WDMA at 1-800-223-2301 for ordering information.)
Ensuring continued awareness on this issue remains paramount. One goal for 2002 is to develop a special media kit addressing window falls. The kit would contain safety tips and copies of the brochure, as well as other facts and figures.

WDMA wants to keep the “big picture” in sight. Window safety does matter, and everyone in the industry, from small to larger companies, distributors, builders, specifiers and architects, needs to do his part to make certain windows not only let in the beautiful world outside, but keep the occupants inside safe.    

Alan J. Campbell, CAE, serves as president of the Window and Door Manufacturers Association, based in Des Plaines, Ill.


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