Toronto Community Housing bans window air conditioners following toddler’s death
|Toronto Star 03 Dec 2019 at 10:04|
Toronto Community Housing has banned the installation of window air conditioning systems following the death of a toddler who was crushed after a unit dislodged and fell eight storeys.
While it’s a welcome restriction, it’s “too late for this poor little girl,” says a lawyer retained by the family of the deceased 2-year-old. Slavko Ristich says that more than a decade ago, TCH had information that these window air conditioning units were a potential hazard.
“Obviously we think it’s a positive step in the right direction but the question that still needs to be answered is why wasn’t this done in 2007,” says Ristich.
“In 2007, they had the studies that said these air conditioning units were largely not installed properly. They were a safety risk and the safety risk was of them falling out of the windows.
“Why this wasn’t done years and years ago just boggles my mind.”
Under the new rules tenants cannot install air conditioning units in windows, and close to 6,000 existing systems not supported by a balcony will be removed by year’s end, a TCH spokesperson told the Star. Tenants with air conditioning units supported by a balcony can continue to use them for the time being, the company said, adding those units will be phased out.
Two-year-old Crystal Mirogho died after from the eighth floor of a building near Lawrence Avenue East and Mossbank Drive on Nov. 11. Police were called to the building at about 3:45 p.m. and paramedics rushed the critically injured toddler to the Hospital for Sick Children, where she later died.
“Sadly, we have seen how the risk of a window air conditioner becoming dislodged can have tragic consequences,” said housing corporation president Kevin Marshman in a short statement posted on the TCH website on Monday afternoon.
Marshman said these steps will “protect the safety of tenants, staff and visitors to our buildings and (we) are asking for the co-operation of tenants as we implement these measures.”
Past rules required tenants to obtain written permission to install a window unit.
The company began taking down the 6,000 units in late November and intends to have them all removed by Dec. 25, according to the release. It will replace each with a floor model at no charge to tenants before summer.
Tenants will be given 24 hours notice before the units are removed, the company said, and are being asked to not try and remove the units themselves.
Any tenant can exchange an existing unit, even if it’s already been removed for the winter, for a new floor model, the company said. The old units will be recycled.
Mirogho’s family hired Ristich to conduct an investigation into her death, which they say includes looking at TCH’s policy on how and where air conditioners could be installed up to and at the time of the incident.
“The police investigation is still ongoing,” he said. “They have not concluded (their investigation into) criminal culpability on behalf of the TCHC.”
TCH tenant Sharon, who lives about a block and a half away from the building where the unit fell, said removing the window air conditioners is a good idea.
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“Everybody wants comfort. But that was a wake-up call for everybody to see,” said Sharon, who declined to give her last name and described herself as a concerned resident and grandmother. Her current building has been home for about four years; prior to that, she lived for 23 years in the building where the unit fell.
At her new home her old window unit has long been replaced with a floor model — she can’t remember when — and she told the Star that it works well.
The TCH has been retrofitting older buildings to conserve energy. Sharon said what the housing provider will need to keep an eye out for is when summer temperatures rise and people defy the rules and hang units from their bedroom windows in an effort to keep cool.
Toronto Community Housing staff should, she said, have some kind of foot patrol during the warmer months to make sure people don’t reinstall those extra units.