Abu Dhabi Police issue fresh safety warning over child tower block fall deaths
Police said even a 'moment of negligence' can end in tragedy and urged parents to boost safety measures in their homes
Police in Abu Dhabi have urged parents to step up safety measures at their homes to prevent the needless deaths of children in falls from apartment blocks.
Numbers of such fatalities have long been a source of concern across the Emirates, where many people reside in high-rise buildings.
Police said residents can prevent further tragedy by taking simple steps such as installing balcony guards and window restrictors and ensuring large furniture items are not placed close to balconies to avoid children climbing on them to reach greater heights.
In a safety message issued on social media, the force advised residents to keep access to balcony areas limited and lock windows and warned even a "moment of negligence" can cost lives.
A recent accident was caused by playfully holding a child in front of a window that was not securely closed, police said.
"The person holding the child may think they are holding them tight, but they could lose control and the child could fatally slip,' police said in a statement.
“A moment of negligence or absent-mindedness has caused the loss of many children’s lives."
In March, a six-year-old autistic boy fell to his death from an 11th floor balcony in Sharjah.
The boy reportedly climbed a chair in the balcony and fell. The mother said she did not notice the child sneaking out.
In September last year, a secondary-school girl was also reported to have fallen from her school balcony in Abu Dhabi.
In such instances, parents are immediately investigated by the police and could face charges.
However, in many cases the parents are not taken to court because it is difficult to prove that the parents were actually responsible for the accident, a senior Dubai prosecutor previously told The National.
“If a child is metres away from his parents, falls and then is critically injured, its quite tough to blame the parents,” said Mohammed Rustom, head of Dubai's family and juvenile prosecution division.
“We can't be emotional, we have to be practical and as per law, find evidence to establish presence of negligence.”
The UAE child protection law states that a child caregiver is prohibited from subjecting the child to neglect or abandonment and from leaving him without supervision or follow-up, or fail to or refrain from providing guidance.
Those flouting the law could either face imprisonment, a Dh5,000 fine, or both.
Window-guards could be in the form of metal bars placed outside a window to prevent a child from being able to get through.
Parents could also install locks on the window-handles, or thin metal-nets outside a balcony.
Constance Arturo, a mother of three, said she installed bars outside her window even before her daughter could walk.
“Why wait until she can climb things and then suffer the consequences?” said the 34-year-old housewife from Lebanon.
“I have a big couch in front of the living-room window, so she could easily climb it and jump.
"I live in a normal building made of bricks, so it was easy to install bars," she said.
“I just went to a steel and aluminium company to order it, they sent a representative to measure the windows and after three days it was ready.”
The price was also quite reasonable, she said.
“I installed it for the living room window and the girls’ bedroom, it cost around Dh800 in total.”
Mrs Arturo said she did not have to take the permission of the landlord before installing the guard because the bars can be easily removed.
“However, I don’t think it is possible for people who live in high-rise buildings with glass windows to apply such guards by themselves.
“I have friends like that who ended up locking the windows altogether, one family even broke the window handles and removed them.”
Updated: June 24, 2020 01:06 PM