Lessons from Sandy Hook a Year LaterDecember 12th, 2013 by DWM Magazine
As the one-year anniversary of the school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., approaches, those in the door and window and glazing industry say the devastating event has impacted the industry. According to several experts, the types of requests for safety and security products have changed since the tragedy.
“We’ve seen a definite uptick in calls concerning glazing in schools,” says Julie Schimmelpenningh, applications manager for Eastman Chemical Co.’s architectural films. “People want to understand what the options are to protect building occupants from intrusion through vulnerable doors and windows. Fortunately, there are some good glazing choices available that can help protect students and faculty, while maintaining the natural light in buildings that is so important to a positive learning experience.”
Officials from Eastman add that, for schools that find laminated glass retrofits too costly, security window films are a much more viable solution.
Thomas S. Zaremba, a glass industry consultant, says he welcomes the kind of security conversations that have been needed for some time if our schools are to be really safe.
“[The Sandy Hook tragedy] has focused attention on the fact that it is critically important to put the ‘right type of glass in the right location,’” he says. “Architects and designers have to recognize that the building codes are only the starting point when selecting the right glass for the location. The building codes are ‘minimum’ codes and additional precautions and protections beyond the ‘minimum’ may well be necessary to make special occupancies—like schools—safe.”
While nothing makes a school completely safe from a twisted mind intent on harm, laminated glass offers the best alternative, says Dennis R. Kelly, executive vice president of Graham Architectural Products in York, Pa.
“Laminated glass is a great solution for school security because it can buy time needed to react to an intruder,” he says.
Kelly points out that schools in New York City and Washington, D.C., require laminated glass for all windows—primarily for breakage—but security comes with it.
“Whether in doors, windows or side lites, laminated glass inhibits access into the building,” he says.
While it may not be realistic to expect glass to keep an assailant out of the building indefinitely, laminated glass can at least delay the would-be perpetrator long enough for authorities to arrive.
That’s just what Solar Reflections of Charleston, S.C., had in mind when it began working with numerous area school districts in the wake of the Sandy Hook tragedy, says Lacey Grooms, the company’s sales and operations manager.
“We worked with multiple school districts as well as the Charleston County police department and their SWAT teams,” Grooms says. “The goal is to either find a way to slow down the entry of intruders … or to find a way to scare them off. The glass that is currently on the school windows per code is ¼-inch tempered glass … These school districts know they need to do something.”
Other options school are considering, Grooms says, include ballistics and intrusion evaluations for school glass.
“With the initial testing we did a few weeks ago, they’re testing ¼-inch laminated safety glass as a replacement option for the current tempered glass,” she says. “The second test was ½-inch non-laminated safety glass and the third option was ¼-inch tempered (which is what’s currently installed in the schools) with our film. We applied a 10-mil safety film to a door and permanently anchored it.
“The testing was pretty aggressive. The SWAT team used a .45 caliber and an AR-15 assault rifle. They put a lot of rounds of ammunition in these windows and for what they went through, they all held up very well.”
The state of Connecticut is also taking measures to increase the safety and security of its schools. Last month Gov. Dannel P. Malloy had announced that $21 million had been allocated to more than half the public schools in the state for security items such as security cameras, bullet-resistant glass, panic buttons and safe rooms as a direct result of the Sandy Hook tragedy.
“We will never be able to prevent every random act of violence,” Malloy explained during the announcement, “but we can take the steps necessary to make sure that our children and our teachers are as safe as possible.”