With the onset of warmer weather, the Health Department is urging New Yorkers to make sure window guards are in place. You can prevent the tragedy of a child falling from a window with properly installed window guards.

City law requires the owner of any building with three or more apartments to install window guards in units housing children under 11 years of age. Window guards are a good idea in any building unit that children visit regularly, and they’re critical and mandatory in units where children live or attend child care. Although not required in in one- or two-family homes, people living in these types of dwellings should consider installing guards in any window not used as an emergency exit.

In 2010, there were five preventable falls from windows that required guards in New York City.  Luckily, none of the falls resulted in death, but all could have been prevented by properly installed window guards.

“During the summer, open windows offer relief from the heat but they can pose hazards for small children,” said Dr. Thomas Farley, New York City Health Commissioner. “Window guards can prevent falls and save lives, but only if building owners, tenants and parents make sure they are properly installed. Any parent or caregiver who doesn’t have window guards securely in place should call the building’s owner or superintendent immediately to have them installed. The City will install guards in windows when a building owner fails to respond to a request and the owner of the building may be fined.”

Both building owners and tenants have a responsibility to keep buildings safe for children. Tenants whose landlords are unresponsive should call 311 to file a complaint. Building owners can also call 311 to report tenants who refuse to allow guards to be installed as required by law. Unguarded windows in homes with children should not be opened more than 4½ inches until a window guard is installed.

If children 10 years of age or younger live in your apartment, or if you provide any type of child care services in your apartment, you must:

  • Inform the building owner and/or complete the annual notice provided by the landlord.
  • Allow the building owner or a representative to access to the apartment to install window guards or stopping devices that keep windows from opening more than 4½ inches.
  • Not remove window guards or stopping devices once they are installed.
  • Not alter window guards or stopping devices. Not remove any part of a window guard or stopping device.

Even if you don’t have children living at home, it’s still a good idea to install window guards, especially if children visit often. The Window Guard Law requires building owners to install window guards in any apartment where the tenant requests them.

Approved Window Guards and Proper Installation

Every window guard must have a Health Department approval number on the inside stile and must be appropriate for the window it occupies. Approved guards do not have spaces large enough for a 5-inch object to pass through.  Any guard that has more than a 4½-inch space between the bottom bar and the windowsill, or the top bar and the base of the raised window, is not installed properly. For information on approved window guards, where to buy them and how to install them, New Yorkers can call 311 and ask for the Health Department’s Window Fall Prevention Program.

Here are some guidelines you can use to determine whether your approved window guards are properly installed:

  • On “double-hung windows,” two L-shaped stops should be screwed into the upper window tracks – one on each side – to keep the bottom window from being opened more than 4½ inches above the top bar of a window guard.
  • There should be no opening or space greater than 4½ inches on any window, including double hung, casement or sliders. Approved limiting devices should be installed immediately on any window for which a window guard is unavailable.
  • The window guard must be installed securely and be flush mounted to the window frame on both sides with one-way or tamper-proof screws approved by the Health Department.
  • A window guard installed in a rotting or loose window frame may fall out. These windows should have limiting devices installed that will prevent the window from opening more than 4½ inches until a window guard can be securely installed in the frame.

Additional recommendations to prevent window falls:

  • Carefully check window guards periodically to ensure that they are secure.
  • Keep unsupervised children off balconies and terraces, and keep balcony and terrace doors locked when children are not supervised by an adult.
  • Never let your child play near elevator shafts or on fire escapes, balconies, terraces or rooftops. Don’t let them play unsupervised in building hallways that have unguarded windows.