Sandy Hook Advisory Commission Member Says Laminated Glass Key to School Safety

A member of the Sandy Hook Advisory Commission says laminated glass offers the best chance to keep students safe from predators while at school by providing the valuable time needed until authorities arrive.

“The first five to eight minutes is very critical in every one of these cases to saving dozens of lives,” says Robert Ducibella, a security consultant who is one of the 16 members of the body charged by Connecticut Governor Dannel P. Malloy with recommending a broad range of state policy changes in the wake of the deadly shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. on December 14, 2012 that resulted in the tragic deaths of 20 young children and six adults.

“Generally, the individuals trying to do harm at the schools know that, when the police arrive, their spree is over and they take their own lives. What we’re trying to do is keep the target away from the aggressors long enough for the police to arrive. Laminated glass can do that.”

There’s yet to be a consensus within the glass industry on what the best approach is to better securing schools while also maintaining the natural light that studies have shown to be critical to a more positive learning experience.

Some have advocated for laminated glass, while others still say that security window films are the best option.

Thomas S. Zaremba, a glass industry consultant, says the idea of relying on laminated glass “has some appeal,” but cautioned against a quick rush without taking a number of other factors into consideration such as what types of glass are in the doors or whether they are locked.

“Before school systems make the additional investment required for a general use of laminated glass throughout their building envelopes,” he says, “they will want, at least, some assurances that the other security measures in place at points of entry are adequate and effective (i.e., are the doors locked?) and that the exact type of laminated glass used and how it is anchored in its frame will be adequate and effective to resist a potentially very violent attacker.”

But Ducibella insists that laminated glass does just that when coupled with locked doors at the front of both the school entry and classrooms. More cost-effective and easier to retrofit in existing building than the heavier and costlier, bullet-resistant glazing, laminated glass is more like an automobile windshield.

“Those three-to-five minutes at the front entry, those three-to-five minutes at the classroom door, may be enough to protect a class full of kids or an auditorium full of kids,” Ducibella says. “It’s a very attractive solution.”

Critics, however, say that same system could also prove detrimental in slowing down emergency responders, but Ducibella says that hindrance can be easily avoided with readily-available access codes, electronic cards and other methods of entry.

Ducibella, who has done extensive work in the past in securing both public and private buildings, says the Sandy Hook Advisory Commission will soon be issuing a Safe School Infrastructure Program that will essentially recommend the best way to build secure buildings throughout the state.

“Laminated glass will be one of the recommendations made in that,” he says. “It’s long overdue for being in schools.”

 

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