Tenants have mixed view about child safety locks on windows

Residents react to an Abu Dhabi law that requires landlords of residential buildings to instal safety measures, such as locks, on windows as a preventative measure against children falling out.

Windows in a few buildings in the capital lack safety locks to protect against children falling. Ravindranath K / The National
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ABU DHABI // Tenants whose homes comply with a recent law on child-safety locks believe the responsibility for children’s safety falls on parents, and not the government or property managers.

The legislation, introduced in 2012, meant Abu Dhabi required landlords of residential buildings to instal safety devices, such as locks, on windows less than 1.5 metres above the floor and capable of being opened more than 10 centimetres.

Some locks, however, are easily disabled to allow windows to be fully opened. But for those who live in newer buildings with windows designed specifically to comply with the law, getting some fresh air is a bit more difficult.

T A, 25, who lives in a building with childproof locks on the windows, said that while the law erred on the side of caution, it was to the detriment of those without children.

“I support the initiative from a safety perspective, only if there are children living in the household,” said T A. “As for everyone else, I don’t think it’s a necessary precaution.”

The American said the law took away the pleasure of having an open window, and as a tenant she was not getting what she initially agreed to.

The safety decision, she said, should be up to the people occupying the property, and not imposed on those without any need for it.

“I hate how we can’t open windows,” T A said. “If I want to have a smoke, or if the weather’s nice and I want a breeze, I should be able to have that in my own home.

“If we adopt the logic that windows are unsafe, then does that mean that we should also ban balconies and terraces unless they’re caged?”

Abu Dhabi Commercial Properties has implemented a child-safety programme by installing fall-prevention devices on residential windows and balcony doors.

ADCP said this week that it had installed 129,380 safety locks in almost 1,000 residences as part of its programme.

For those with children, however, the safety locks serve as another tool they can use to keep their children safe.

“It’s not that these child-safety windows prevent the children from getting out of the window, but it’s up to the parents to take care of the children. Sure, it makes it less likely that they will crawl out, but this can happen anywhere and to any child,” said M A, an Indian national and father of two.

His neighbour, S S, a mother of two, said that the effectiveness of the child-safety lock was not so much in the design but in the idea.

“I use the child-safety lock to tell my children that if they unlock it an alarm will go off, so it deters them from being naughty in that way. As for the actual act, we as parents are the ones responsible for the safety of the children,” she said.

By the end of the year, ADCP expects to instal more than 260,000 window-safety devices. It is asking residents to allow engineers access to their homes to make them safer for children, said Abdulla Al Suwaidi, managing director of ADCP and Abu Dhabi Commercial Engineering Services.

The initiative is part of ADCP’s efforts to curtail incidents of children falling from windows or balconies. Local authorities have said they aim to place posters in towers warning families about the dangers of children having access to windows.

ADCP announced it would instal devices after a nine-year-old Syrian girl fell to her death from an eighth-floor apartment on Hamdan Street in March.