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Can tall buildings in UAE be child-friendly?

Filed on December 14, 2019 | Last updated on December 14, 2019 at 06.25 am

An alarming number of children have fallen to their death from buildings, according to a top police official.

Authorities, schools, parents and social workers have once again raised the issue of vigilance and parental care to prevent child and teenage fatality in the UAE.

An alarming number of children have fallen to their death from buildings, according to a top police official. As many as 15 children, aged between two and 10 years, died after falling from buildings in Sharjah in the last three years. The highest number of fatal falls happened in 2016 when seven children died while four deaths were recorded across different areas of the emirate the following year. In 2018, three children plunged to their deaths from high-rise buildings.

Aside from the fatal falls, other accidents have also been reported that claimed the lives of the innocent: A six-year-old Emirati girl died after a fridge fell on her at her home in Sharjah's Kalba area; A three-year-old Bangladeshi boy died of severe burns after his mother accidentally spilled boiling water on him; and another 10-year-old European girl had drowned in a hot tub after her hair got entangled in the filter.

The community at large has said there is an urgent need to up the ante when it comes to child safety. Indian Social worker Naseer Vatanapally said: "The high number of child deaths over the last couple of months are nothing short of alarming. All these deaths could be avoided if building management and parents followed safety protocols. Safety measures must be installed in apartments where kids are living; parents have to be vigilant."

A parent of three, Mohammed Nazim, also a business owner said: "Kids are naturally curious at this age. It is our duty as parents to exercise caution and protect them. I have put a steel grill over my balcony at home, and I will remove it only when the kids grow older."

Sharjah Police intensify high-rise safety campaign 

Sharjah authorities have intensified their campaign to reduce such unfortunate incidents. A top official at the Sharjah Police said parents must secure windows and balcony locks and also watch toddlers' movements around the house. "According to investigations, children falling from high-rises occur due to parental negligence. In the most recent incidents, parents had left the windows open and kept objects in balconies which children used to climb and fall. Having an eye on them is important when they roam around the house. We will continue our last year's campaign, under the slogan 'Your Child's Safety is Your Responsibility'," he said. 

"The campaign is aimed at educating the public, especially parents, to take all preventive precautions inside homes. Police will interact with property owners to take preventive actions to reduce tragic incidents," he added.

Inspections to ensure safety standards 

Sheikh Khalid bin Saqr Al Qasimi, chairman of the Sharjah Prevention and Safety Authority (SPSA), said the SPSA will hold an awareness programme titled 'Home Security and Safety' and carry out inspections to ensure safety standards are being met in all skyscrapers in the emirate. 

"There are a number of instructions issued to government departments regarding the safety standards to be met before issuing a building permit. This is to preserve lives and property and includes the height of the balcony wall to be 120cm, and window openings should be according to the specifications laid out for each floor."

Aiming for zero child deaths

Hanadi Saleh Al Yafei, director of the Child Safety Department (CSD), said: "The authorities have exerted its efforts but such incidents are still persisting. The CSD will continue coordination with authorities to implement awareness and educational initiatives on how to secure homes. The CSD is working with the Sharjah Police, Sharjah Municipality and a number of government departments concerned, to come up with stronger preventive solutions. We are aiming at reaching zero child accidents in Sharjah," said Al Yafei. 

"One thing to note is that equipping homes with safety supplies for children are not costly. There are easy and simple measures available at furniture stores and major outlets, such as locks for windows and doors for balconies, which children cannot open without help from adults. These simple measures are sufficient to protect children. Also, infants and toddlers must always be under the supervision of parents," added Al Yafei. 

(With inputs from Dhanusha Gokulan)

afkarali@khaleejtimes.com 

How to child-proof an apartment

Living room

> All unused electrical outlets should be covered with outlet protectors or safety caps

> Make sure that coffee tables and side tables have corner and edge bumpers, especially if your child is learning to crawl and walk

> Avoid rugs or carpets on corridors when you have young kids running around

> Secure heavy furniture like book cases and shelving with sturdy brackets and anchors

Windows and balconies

> Position furniture away from windows so that children can't reach window sills

> Don't use blinds that have looped cords, which can pose as a strangulation risk for children

> Add high locks to doors that open to balconies or to window seats that can be opened

> If you leave balcony door open for long periods for fresh air or sunlight, add a screen door with child-proof lock

Bedroom

> Position your child's bed and crib away from windows

> Make sure beddings are made of breathable fabric

> Keep toys and books in low-lying shelves so that kids don't need to climb up to reach them

Kitchen

> Put safety latches on all cabinets and drawers, especially those that store cleaning/poisonous products like insect-repellent sprays and bleach

> Knives, scissors and other sharp or heavy kitchen tools shouldn't be left on top of the counter.

> When you're cooking, always turn pot handles toward the back of the stove so they can't be reached by kids or accidentally knocked over by whoever's in the kitchen.

> Use a stoveguard to cover or lock the temperature knobs

> Corner guards are crucial for high kitchen tables

Bathroom

> Cabinets and drawers should also have safety latches

> Instal hooks for hair dryers or flat irons so you can tuck them away 

> Place a rubber mat on the shower and bathtub floor

> Never leave a child in the bathroom unattended. Kids can drown in just an inch of water, or they can slip and hit their head on the counter. 

Afkar Abdullah


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