Dubai: From the very first minute my wife and I moved into our eighth floor apartment in Al Nahda 2, we set about securing the balcony and windows for the sake of our two daughters aged seven and four.
Having both grown up in low level houses, me in the UK and my wife in the Philippines, neither of us were accustomed to high rise living and it struck fear in us both whenever we peered over the ledge, let alone when our kids got anywhere near the balcony.
First of all, we got our building maintenance to either put steel bars across the sliding windows or stoppers to limit the windows from sliding any more than five or six inches. They had all these devices to hand and were only too happy to help. In all we paid Dh500 per set of bars and the stoppers came free, installation came at a nominal cost.
When it came to the balcony, however, we had to be slightly more inventive. At first I was all for installing a seven-foot bamboo screen across the width of our two-metre balcony, but that would have prevented any light from getting into our living room. So, instead we purchased two wooden trellis panels from a hardware store for Dh150 each and bound them to the existing balcony trellis using a Dh50 bag of cable ties.
Now I’m the first to admit that this isn’t the ideal solution and that the holes in the trellis make it even better for a kid to climb, but that is why we now also seek to fit some perspex across the trellis to stop the kids getting a foothold.
At the very least the current set up has raised the height of the existing metre plus balcony wall to that of two metres or more and the imposing structure tells the kids that we definitely don’t want them going anywhere near.
Our worries stemmed from the fact the building’s swimming pool is actually on the ground floor, and if they heard their friends below they would try and look down to see them, so something had to be installed.
As well as the trellis, we also have a lock on the balcony door and a latch on the fly screen for when the door is not closed that cost us about Dh15.
None of this is enough without discipline however, so we ensure that either the screen or the door is closed and locked at all times and that nothing is left on the balcony like chairs, toys or bikes that could be climbed upon.
We constantly remind our kids about the rules around windows and balconies and luckily we have a great nanny who enforces the same when we are at work. It goes without saying that the kids are also never left alone or encouraged to venture out onto the balcony even when we are around.
As a dad, hearing about recent incidents of toddlers falling from high rises has left me even more paranoid, so as a result we are going to look for even better ways to secure our balconies and windows, and hopefully spread these ideas among our neighbours who also have small kids.