Parents – Beware of corded blinds in your home

By Autumn Leopold

The Surveyor

It was an average Thursday in January 2010 for the stay-at-home mom of two, Andrea Sutton. After having a morning of play, Andrea, then a resident of Firestone, Colo., put her 4-year-old daughter Ashley and her 3-year-old son Daniel down for their naps in their separate bedrooms.  Daniel had a cute VW Beetle car bed he loved. Andrea then did what all moms of young kids do when the kids finally nap. She picked up the house, grabbed a bite to eat and sat down to rest. Ashley was the first one up from her nap. Andrea spent a little one-on-one time with her and decided to let Daniel sleep a bit more. Nobody likes to wake a sleeping baby.

Daniel Sutton

Finally, the girls decided to go in to gently wake Daniel up. Ashley was the first one in the room. When Andrea entered she saw Ashley standing in front of her brother and staring into his face. Ashley didn’t understand. Daniel wasn’t in bed, he was hanging from the window blinds with the cords tangled around his neck. Andrea rushed in, got him untangled, and started CPR. Though Andrea said she knew that her sweet, funny, smart, precocious child was already gone. At some point, 911 was called and police, ambulance, and fire arrived. The paramedics again tried CPR to the point Andrea felt bad for them because they didn’t want to give up. There were many tears shed by all and the coroner was called. The coroner couldn’t make it until hours later, and when she arrived she was in tears as well.

Though the Sutton family will never know exactly how it happened, Andrea believes Daniel heard something outside his window and pushed his bed over (it’s a plastic bed) so he could climb on the roof of his VW Beetle and look out the window. At some point the cords tangled around his neck and possibly as he was trying to get down the tragic accident occurred. When childproofing your home, most people remember outlet covers, toilet locks, cabinet locks and baby gates. Many people either forget about their blinds having cords or buy the window blinds tie-up kits that can easily be tugged down. Andrea did have her cords tied up in safety devices. However, if you have ever tried these you’ll find you can easily yank on them and the cords can come out. The very best and safest solution to protect children under 9 from accidental strangulation is to replace corded window coverings with cordless window coverings.

Andrea has been an advocate for cordless window coverings for almost 10 years now.

Courtesy photo – The Sutton family at Daniel’s memorial in Firestone, Colo. (L-R) David, Abbey, Andrea, Ashley and Andrea’s sister, Jennifer Schreiner

In 2010, when Daniel died, there were only recommendations by manufacturers for keeping cords out of reach of children. A study from the Journal of Pediatrics done in 2017 found, over 26 years, emergency departments treated almost 17,000 children for strangulations from window-covering cords. Tragically, 271 of those children died. Thanks to work done by the safety experts, Window Covering Safety Council (WCSC), the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and many parents’ advocacy groups, a new safety law was passed and went into effect in December 2018 which states all stock window coverings manufactured in the U.S. and Canada (sold online and in stores) must be cordless or have inaccessible short cords. Corded blinds for seniors, people of shorter stature and persons with disabilities can be custom ordered.

Safety experts are still urging families to check their older window coverings for exposed or dangling cords and replace them with today’s cordless products. If you can’t afford to replace your window coverings you can retrofit your window coverings with free kits from WCSC at windowcoverings.org. However Sutton said, “Some of the sites that are controlled by the manufacturers will tell people you can fix the corded blinds that are already in your home… but you can’t… They break, there are inner cords and what about the one time you forget to tie them back up after they’ve been down or after dusting… It’s just not worth it.”

October is officially National Window Covering Safety Month, however, spring cleaning and the beginning of summer is a great time to get those window coverings replaced. Especially if you will have a child under 9 home with you all summer.

Since the Sutton family’s move to Berthoud a few years ago Andrea has been involved with a local non-profit called Guided Hope. If you or someone you know is struggling with the loss of a child, Guided Hope is a farm whose mission is to, “serve children, adults, and families experiencing grief, military service, adoption, medical hardship, and anyone who desire to strengthen and enrich their family.” You can reach Guided Hope at 303-717-8372 or guidedhope.org.

Andrea and David went on to have another healthy baby girl named Abby. Daniel’s big sister Ashley, who is almost 13, still loves to visit her brother’s memorial. Andrea is still an advocate and continues to share their story and the story of hope that with time and a loving community can come after a tragedy.

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