Sharjah Civil Defence has unveiled new specificaitons for all new residential buildings under construction and compulsory modifications to existing ones to prevent children from falling out of windows and balconies, according to a report in the Arabic daily newspaper ‘Al Bayan’.
The new rules compel owners of old buildings to instal protections on windows and to raise the height of balcony walls from 1.2 metres to 1.5 metres.
Lt. Col. Sami Khamis Al Naqbi, Director of the Department of Civil Protection and Safety of Sharjah Civil Defence, said completion certificates will be given only to new buildings meeting the new requirements.
Al Naqbi said windows in old buildings should not be at a height less than 1 metre from the floor.
He called on parents and landlords to take preventive action to avoid more such accidents.
Khalifa bin Hidah Al Suwaidi, Director of Engineering Department at Sharjah Municipality, said the municipality was planning changes to specifications for windows and balconies for all buildings in the city.
Among them, the height of windows and balconies from the floor has been raised from 1 metres to 1.20 metres.
All residents will be required to instal locks for windows and ensure that they cannot be opened more than 5 to 10 centimetres.
Al Suwaidi said such accidents happen when residents place furniture in the house incorrectly near the windows or balconies, which increases the risk of children falling out.
He called on landlords and contractors to cooperate with the municipality in implementing the new requirements for the sake of children’s safety. The municipality is conducting inspection campaigns from time to time.
The municipality has warned residents from using balconies as a store, which could enable children to climb on top of these things, increasing the risk of them falling out.
Lawyer Huda Rustam said parents could face the charge of criminal responsibility if negligence is proven in any such accident.
Article 394 of the Federal Penal Code sets legal liability on anyone who endangers the life of a minor (less than 15 years old) or any one incapable of protecting himself because of health or mental problems and can face imprisonment of one month to two years.
The punishment can be raised to three years if a disabled person or minor is left in a place free of people by a member of the family of the victim.
Anish, father of girl child Aster who fell from the window of their flat in Al Butaina area of Sharjah, said he had not stopped having nightmares since that accident.
He said he will never forget that day in January when his wife was busy with housework and he entered the washroom for a few minutes. He heard a noise and saw that the window was open. “I looked down and saw our child lying motionless on the ground, with people flocking around her. My wife fainted.”
“Luckily, the doctor told us that our daughter is alive but she will need a long time to be able to walk again because a spinal injury,” he said.
The girl’s father appealed to parents to instal protections on the windows of the rooms. He said the height the parapet of the terrace should be more than 170cm.