Sharjah Civil Defence inspectors are visiting flats in the emirate to ensure new window locks meet the new Sharjah Building Code revisions introduced in late 2015. Image Credit: Gulf News Archives

Sharjah: Child-proof window locks and stoppers are being installed in residential towers across Sharjah to mitigate a spate of more than two dozen deaths of children due to falls from high buildings since 2013.

Maintenance crews in private high-rise buildings are installing safety locks to prevent windows from opening more than 15 centimetres in concert with Sharjah Civil Defence inspectors who are visiting flats to ensure new window locks meet Sharjah Building Code revisions introduced in late 2015.

As the window retrofit programme continues, reports of child falling deaths have declined to one incident in Sharah this year as compared to seven deaths annually in each of the last three years leading up to 2017.

This year on March 25, a three-year-old Saudi girl fell to her death from the eleventh floor of a building on Jamal Abdul Nasser street in Sharjah. Police confirmed that the girl climbed on a chair next to a window and slipped through the opening.

Meanwhile, residents living in the 11-storey Bouhamra Building in Sharjah have been served notice to open up their flats to allow crews in to child-proof all windows in apartments.

“As per the instruction of Sharjah Civil Defence towards safety and security of residents, all the windows in this building will be closed partially with 15cm opening using a fixed safety stopper. Please provide access to your apartment for the maintenance team to fix the safety stopper,” stated an August 22 notice to residents from property firm Cluttons.

Mohammad Musthafa, Cluttons Technical Property Manager, said that 15 of the firm’s 32 buildings have undergone the safety retrofits of windows in the last four months, followed up by extremely thorough inspections by as many as five Civil Defence officers during each visit to buildings.

“Civil Defence officers are being very observant in each inspection to make sure all of the windows now meet the new safety rules,” Musthafa told Gulf News on Wednesday. “This is good progress we are making to make our buildings safer for our children.”

New safety rules are even calling for safety stoppers on garbage chute doors on each floor to ensure no child can accidentally climb in and fall to their death, he said.
Other property firms across the emirate are also engaged in retrofitting their buildings as required by law, he said.

Sharjah implemented an aggressive revision of its building codes in late 2015 to block dangerous openings at floor levels to prevent children from falling out of high-rise windows, which now must be at placed least a metre high from the floor.

Residential apartment owners at the time of the revisions were instructed to have at least 120-cm-high balcony railings, 20 cm higher than previously called for by the municipality.

The new requirements by Sharjah Municipality were implemented to prevent deaths of children who were, in many cases, left unsupervised and managed to climb through open windows or over balcony enclosures only to plunge to their deaths, stressed Sharjah Police.

Police have warned parents that they can be charged with negligence in the deaths of their children in such cases.

When the new legal stipulations were brought into effect, Khalifa Bin Hada Al Suwaidi, who was director of Engineering Department at Sharjah Municipality at the time, told Gulf News that all construction, engineering and consulting offices in the emirate were being given copies of the safety codes.

Deaths of children in high-rise falls

Since 2013 to date, a rough count of child deaths due to falls from residential towers in Sharjah stands at 26.

Here is a breakdown of those deaths by year:

2013 - 4 deaths

2014 - 7 deaths

2015 - 7 deaths

2017 - 1 death (to date)

Source: Gulf News