Singapore—You see it on the news every so often, a child falling from the top storeys of an HDB flat. Sometimes the story has a happy ending when the SCDF comes quickly with an inflatable air cushion that saves the day. But in too many other cases, a young child is left alone, panics, and then tries to leave the flat, and ends up plunging to his or her death.
The latest incident happened earlier this month when a six-year-old girl was left by herself on June 4 at her home in the 11th floor of Block 637 Ang Mo Kio Avenue 6. She had been seen and heard crying by neighbours that afternoon. Police were notified of the accident at 5:38 pm, but by then it was too late.
After her death, the girl’s mother expressed regret at not having locked the windows to the flat or calling to check on her daughter earlier that day. The mother, formerly a waitress, was attending a nursing course, in the hopes of betterment for their lives, and the childcare center where the girl usually went was only open half-day at that time.
In April, a young man with special needs died when he fell from the 8th floor of his family’s Blk 200 Toa Payoh North flat as he looked for his pet hamster. In January, a five-year-old boy was killed in a fall after having been locked accidentally in his parents’ eighth floor Woodlands Close office on a Saturday. Authorities believe that the child tried to leave the office through a window. His parents had forgotten that he was with them at their office, but they returned too late.
In November of last year, a two-year-old boy fell 11 floors down from his family’s unit in Block 182A in the Sengkang Rivervale area, but miraculously survived his descent.
Indeed, there are many more examples of not only children but adults falling from high-rise buildings, which gives rise to the question, can Singapore do more to prevent high-rise deaths?
Several things can be done to address this problem, one of which is to educate families with young children who move into HDB blocks as to the dangers of high-rise buildings including grandparents, maids, helpers, nannies, babysitters, and whoever else is actively involved with childcare.
The following are actionable safety measures that families may adopt as well:
- Installing grilles on the windows of your flat
- Making sure that windows are locked. Install double locks if the locks on your windows are easy to open.
- Moving large furniture away from windows so that children cannot climb them.
- Similarly, make sure there isn’t any furniture your child can climb up onto on your balcony that he or she can easily fall from.
- Locking windows and balcony access doors.
- Making sure that a young child is never left alone in a high-rise flat.
Some childcare experts believe that high-rise buildings are not meant to be lived in by young children, who ideally should have playing areas even inside their homes. But this is not the reality in Singapore, where a majority of families make their home in HDB flats.
Therefore, education and safety precautions are of utmost importance. In the absence of large tracts of land where everyone can build houses and yards for their children to play safely, it is best for parents to take on the responsibility of ensuring their kids’ safety and preventing untoward incidents./ TISG