x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Call for child-safety mesh in towers

Following the deaths of three children in three months, child safety experts say parents should install mesh window guards and balcony netting.

Mesh screens on residential towers could save lives, but not without the municipality's permission.
Mesh screens on residential towers could save lives, but not without the municipality's permission.

DUBAI // Child-safety experts say parents of toddlers living in high-rise blocks should install mesh window guards and balcony netting to prevent falls.

But Dubai Municipality says such modifications cannot be made without its permission.

In the past three months, three children under the age of six have died after falling from windows or balconies in apartment blocks.

A blind boy, 3, fell from a 14th-floor apartment in Sharjah last Thursday. Five days earlier a girl, 4, fell from a 15th-floor apartment in Al Qasimia area in the same emirate. And on September 27 a boy, 5, fell from an eighth-floor window of an apartment in Jumeirah Lakes Towers, Dubai.

Duri Arbab, the founder of the Dubai child-safety consultancy DuMa Safe, said: "Locks are a must for windows and sliding doors on to the balconies if there are children at home.

"A window that is left open can be deadly if there is furniture around … in all the recent incidents, either a kid fell from a window or from the balcony. Proper measures can be taken to stop this."

Ms Arbab said parents living in high-rises should install childproof locks and mesh netting for balconies to stop children from falling.

"Dubai Municipality should bring in new rules to see that all balconies are provided with a mesh," she said.

But Marwan Al Mohammed, the head of engineering supervision at the municipality, said rules were in place to protect tenants of high-rises and mesh was not among them.

"We reject permit applications if contractors do not follow our existing rules," Mr Al Mohammed said. "Safety is important to us and we do not want any accidents involving children."

He said all buildings were required to have windows and balconies at a height of at least 90 centimetres.

"Any resident wanting to erect mesh guards or safety grilles would have to first seek permission from the building owner, who would have to submit a proposal to the municipality about the changes to be made," Mr Al Mohammed said.

He said a tenant should not make changes to the balcony of a flat.

"The request has to come from the owner and he should do it for the entire building, not to one or two flats which may affect the look of the building," Mr Al Mohammed said.

"Rules are not enough to avoid accidents if the kids are not careful. Parents should also take a major responsibility in educating their children to make them disciplined."

Dr Anamika Vajpeyi, a clinical psychologist at Unicare Medical Centre in Dubai, said parents needed to show more authority.

"Parents should develop good attachment to their children so that they can easily communicate with them and make them aware of potential threats," Dr Vajpeyi said.

She said children under the age of 12 should never be left unattended.

Samia Kazi, the chief operating officer at the early childhood care consultant Arabian Child, said homes had to be made as safe as possible.

"Disciplining the child is not enough," Ms Kazi said. "As a responsible parent, you take time and effort to teach your child to look both ways before crossing but then hold their hand as they cross the street anyway. We must take every precaution to 'safe-proof' our homes. This includes guarding them from falls … and under no circumstances can we leave children at home alone.

"There are some solutions in window designs and certain specifications to the window that developers and homeowners can look into that increase child safety without jeopardising the beauty of the building … however, all these are not enough if not applied together with training and education."