Ways to make balcony railings safe for children

MINNEAPOLIS - If the railings on your deck or balcony have gaps wider than 4 inches, changes to keep a child from squeezing through might be a good idea. Aaron Stevenson with Lowe's Home Improvement in Plymouth said one option is to cover the railings with plexiglass. He suggested securing the plastic covering with a u-shaped bolt. Coupled with watching your child, he said that is one inexpensive step someone can take to help prevent an accident.

In less than 10 minutes, Stevenson assembled a safety gate often used to keep small children from climbing over a balcony or slipping through the open space. Stevenson said the gate, North States Superyard 3 in 1 Metal, is one of several layers of protection people can use to child-proof their balconies. It cost about $160.

The spacing between each bar on the gate is about three inches.

"These bars are too small even for an infant to crawl through. It is a very popular item," Stevenson said. "You can completely enclose a child in an area so that they are not able to get to a spot on the deck or the patio that is not safe and you can change the shape of it really simply."

Somehow, 1-year-old Musa Dayib fell from an 11 story apartment balcony at Riverside Plaza in Minneapolis on Sunday. Doctors call the little boy the "miracle baby." His family is still in shock.

"I don't think my brother and his wife will recover from this. They really torture themselves," said the child's uncle, Abdirahim Ahmed. "My brother just stepped out in the kitchen and his little daughter opened the door. And his youngest son stepped out that quick and went through. Sometimes things happen. My brother is terrified and I don't think he will be the same ever again."

The State of Minnesota sets building codes. A spokesperson with the City of Minneapolis said the minimum height for balconies is 42 inches and the maximum spacing depends on when the building was constructed. For those built prior to 1983, like Riverside Plaza, the maximum spacing is 9 inches. According to Matt Lindstrom with the City, the railings on the Riverside Plaza balconies are 47 inches high and spaced 5 ½ inches apart. KARE 11 was able to slide a four-inch ball through the open space on the railings.

Regulations for newer apartments call for tighter spacing- four inches or less. A city spokesperson said a softball should not be able to fit through the space.

George Sherman, president of the community's management company, said they have spent about $65 million in renovations to the community, and that if he were to make any additional changes, that would include reducing the spacing on the railings from 5½ to four inches.

Back at Lowe's the assistant manager and father of four says the best protection is prevention.

"When we lived in apartments you always have to be really careful and watchful of them," he said. "If you have any kind of distraction at all that child can very simply slip through those balusters on that deck."


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