Tragic death of 4 year old prompts action to implement safer windows

Evan, the son of a career Navy officer, fell through a screened window at Aliamanu Military Reservation in Honolulu in 2011. This tragedy served as the catalyst for federal legislation that will safeguard windows in privatized military residential housing.

Just a few weeks before his 5th birthday, Evan was playing with his brother in their upstairs bedroom. They opened the window to call out to a child neighbor playing below, and Evan leaned into the insect screen and fell through. Evan was rushed to the hospital with a severe head injury. Tragically, he passed away two days later. The incident sparked a coalition of advocates and lawmakers concerned about child window falls to change state and federal laws to require stronger window protections.

In 2017, Congressman Michael Turner (R-OH) introduced “Evan’s Law” into the National Defense Authorization Act of 2018 which mandated window safety devices in privatized military homes. Unfortunately, the law applied only to a limited number of windows, and to new or “wholly renovated” homes. Over the next 2 years, and with the support of other concerned lawmakers, including Senators Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Joni Ernst (R-IA), and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), the National Defense Authorization Acts of 2019 and 2020 included provisions that tightened “Evan’s Law”, expanding the safety requirement to windows where the bottom is within 42 inches of the floor, as well as establishing a Defense department grant program for privatized housing companies to retrofit existing homes. The measure applies to all privatized military housing.

This important milestone will greatly reduce accidents and fatalities for children who are at risk of falling out of windows. Now that the law has passed, the focus has shifted to monitoring compliance and encouraging rapid installation of window safeguards in military housing projects on military installations across the United States. Advocates have been calling on lawmakers to address the window safety issue for years, but pushback from industry groups have been a roadblock. Nearly 15,000 children fall out of windows in the United States each year.