The Weakest Link

Schools Need Education About Glazing Options

By Trey Barrineau, Ellen Rogers and Jordan Scott

Any building—be it a home, office or school—is only as strong as its weakest link. And sometimes, that link is the glass. So why not make that weak link as strong, safe and secure as possible? As a result of school shootings such as the one at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., in February 2018, and at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., six years ago, some school administrators and parents are increasingly reviewing glass and glazing options as possible protectors from unforeseen gun violence.

“In a perfect world this market wouldn’t exist, but as long as there are firearms and weapons of destruction around there will be a need for this,” says Matt Jacobsohn, senior national accounts manager at School Guard Glass. “What is more important than keeping your child safe? Nothing.”

Call to Action

In many parts of Florida, including Parkland, hurricane-resistant glass is required. And it’s this type of glazing that’s thought to have saved lives during the shooting, which left 17 people dead. According to CBS New York, “investigators believe 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz tried to make a sniper’s nest by shooting out a window in a third-floor stairwell. He fired 16 rounds into the glass, but the hurricane-proof [sic] material didn’t shatter.”

The School Board of Broward County has adopted the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED for Schools criteria. That means educational buildings must also meet the lat-est editions of the Florida Building Code (FBC) and the Florida Fire Prevention Code.

According to the county school board, windows must meet all the requirements for wind- and impact-resistance in the FBC for the High Velocity Hurricane Zone (HVHZ) and required product Notice of Acceptance (NOA). The requirements specify low-E, impact-resistant glass that can resist the wind velocity pressures listed in the FBC. The glazing must be made of tempered glass, laminated glass or acceptable glass block. The windows must also provide security to prevent intruder access. Additionally, impact-resistant glass is required at all doors where push bar exit devices cross the glazing.

Addressing a Need

While impact glass may be a requirement in some areas of the country, such as parts of Florida, news reports show that schools across the country are looking at ways to make their students safer. One school district in Rhode Island has formed a special security subcommittee and plans to install a reinforced glass window at one high school for visitors to speak to a security officer through before being buzzed in.

Hernan Gil, vice president of sales, security and specialty glass at Consolidated Glass Holdings, says that since Parkland his company has received a significant increase in calls about security glazing related to schools and colleges. While most have been from architectural firms, they’ve also received calls from police departments, glazing contractors, school facility managers and even glass suppliers.

“Given the nature of this last horrific attack and some reports indicating that the laminated hurricane glass in the Parkland school might have had some effect on the outcome, most of the initial interest is on ballistic glazing to be used within the existing commercial frames,” says Gil. “As the thickness of most UL 752 rated ballistic glazing cannot be accommodated by most commercial frames as a retrofit option, especially the grades designed to protect from rifle type ammunition, the discussion also includes containment grades, such as our Childgard Security Glazing line of products.” These products, he explains, are designed to withstand extensive physical attack in a forced-entry scenario, ultimately resisting entry until law enforcement or additional help arrives.

School Guard Glass began selling its intruder-resistant glass after the Sandy Hook shooting in 2012. The company’s product is designed to prevent a gun-man from getting inside for at least four minutes. Jacobsohn says product inquiries have definitely increased since the Parkland shooting.

“More people are doing research and due diligence about safety in schools and even other types of buildings,” he says. “There is a wider range of people reaching out to us about the K-12 market, including parents, teachers and police officers.”

Increasing Awareness

In the weeks following the Parkland shooting, Jeff Rigot, a North American sales representative with Viracon Architectural Glass, addressed the ability of hurricane-resistant glass to provide some level of bullet protection for a Florida school project.

“… This inquiry [from an architect] was for a public school project in the Panhandle. Basic hurricane-resistant laminated glass does not provide any bullet-resistance, but … what it does provide is UL 972 physical assault protection. Hurricane-resistant glass or storm shutter protection is required for all exterior window openings on Florida commercial/residential buildings where the wind speed is 140 mph and greater or 130 mph within one mile from the coast,” he said. “I am sure there will be more inquiries regarding providing bullet resistance along with hurricane resistance for the building envelope … it can be done, but with significant cost premiums and time delay to test/register products for both.”

Rigot also explained that hurricane laminated glass and framing systems could be designed and engineered to provide bullet resistance by incorporating glass-clad polycarbonate infill panels into a bullet-resistant-rated steel framing system.

“The combined assembly would also have to be tested and certified for hurricane resistance. The technology is available now, but the cost of the system and the testing is significant. Until there is a demand, this will remain a ‘one off ’ product,” he said.

Others have also begun to see more requests for information. Jim Pande, of Aldora Aluminum and Glass Products in Miramar, Fla., says his company is anticipating increased demand for bullet-resistant products in schools.

“In our opinion, schools in the design stage are probably having many aspects of hardening being considered, including bullet-resistant products,” he says. “We have not seen any retrofit requests as of yet, but would anticipate some activity as budgets allow.”

Regardless of the type of glazing product used, many experts agree that delayed entry is critical. According to a statement provided to USGlass magazine by Covestro, a supplier of polycarbonate products used in safety and security glazing, “time is the essential key in stopping school violence before it begins … Installing the correctly rated polycarbonate in strategic locations buys precious time for law enforcement to arrive on the scene and take control. In addition, the poly-carbonate glazing gives law enforcement and first responders a clear view into the interior of the building, and provides administration officials and students with clear views of hallways to determine the best plans of action, either hide or flee.”

Florida Enacts Bill to “Harden” Schools Against Attacks

In March 2018, Florida Gov. Rick Scott signed a sweeping $400 million bill to increase school security, mental health access and gun control in the aftermath of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. The legislation includes provisions to put more bullet-resistant glass, steel doors and automatic locking de-vices into schools.

Of the $400 million earmarked for school safety, $99 million is specifically for “hardening” the infrastructure of educational buildings. These improvements will be added on top of Florida’s hurricane codes, which may have saved lives during the Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting.

According to several media reports, the shooter tried to blast out windows  in a third-floor teacher’s lounge to create a sniper’s nest and target students who were fleeing the carnage. However, the impact-rated glass didn’t break, even after 16 shots with an AR-15. The shooter reloaded, but his gun jammed. He then dropped the weapon and went downstairs, where he blended in with other fleeing students and escaped. He was captured a short time later.

That part of the high school was renovated in 2008, according to Requel L. Bell, a spokesperson with Broward County Schools. She told USGlass magazine in an e-mail that Pirtle Construction was the contractor on the job, and that the glass was supplied by Superior. (The company that fabricated the glass is unknown.)

Pirtle is a major school construction contractor in South Florida. Superior is no longer in business, according to Bell.

The security steps that Broward County’s public schools are taking match those private schools in the county have been using, according to a recent article in the Palm Beach Post.

For example, Oxbridge Academy of the Palm Beaches, a private high school in West Palm Beach, has a feature that allows a  school security official to remotely lock all exterior building doors, including the main entrance.

Impact-rated glass is a crucial feature cited by Palm Beach billionaire Jeff Greene, who founded The Greene School in West Palm Beach. The school has a new building with a single point of entry and hurricane glass, Greene told the newspaper.

On the federal level, Door Security + Safety Professionals and the Door Security + Safety Foundation (DSSF) announced that they strongly support the federal STOP School Violence Act legislation (S. 2475) to help schools and communities stop violence be-fore it happens by providing resources focused on early intervention and school safety infrastructure. The Student, Teachers, and Officers Preventing School Violence Act of 2018 (the STOP School Violence Act) would reauthorize and amend the 2001-2009 bipartisan Secure Our Schools Act to offer Department of Justice (DOJ) grants to states, ultimately helping schools implement proven, evidence-based programs and technologies that stop school violence before it happens. That would include bullet-resistant glass and better locking systems.

Is Window Film an Option?

While the Florida governor’s legislation includes provisions to put more bullet-resistant glass, steel doors and automatic locking devices into schools, window film is not mentioned. But that doesn’t mean schools aren’t looking at it as a viable option to increase protection for its students. As an example, schools in Auburn, Ala., may be adding security film to their interior glass to make them safer, according to a report in the Opelika-Auburn News.

Likewise, a recent article in Tennessee’s Crossville Chronicle explored a variety of increased security measures, and briefly mentioned window film.

“There are also a number of products available that could be used to enhance school safety, like new door locks or a window film that prevents bullets from coming through the glass,” the article stated. 

However, that statement highlights a major misconception about bullet-resistant films. Accoriding to Window Film Depot, there are no ballistic window films that are bulletproof.

“There are some security films plus laminated or polycarbonate glazing combinations that will provide a level of ballistic resistance. Security gilm plus ‘normal’ glass will not stop bulets. Never,” reads the company website.

Many schools are still considering film as a retrofit and cost-effective option.

In Albermarle County, Fla., the school system is evaluating the installation of window film by the end of the year. Officials at Laconia High School in New Hampshire have already moved forward with the decision to install film.

“New doors, locks and camera surveillance equipment will be installed, as will window film,” said Chief Matt Canfield in an article in the New Hampshire Union Leader. “Each of the measures is designed to slow down a shooter, with the window film transforming easily shattered plate glass into the equivalent of auto safety glass that remains mostly solid, tedious and time-consuming to remove.”

According to Idyllwild Town Crier, the Hemet Unified School District in Idyllwild, Calif., is also considering installing reinforced window film throughout its schools, in addition to improving surveillance cameras and implementing electronic locks.

One major concern school administrators have, however, is that film could make students more unsafe in other emergency situations.

A New York Times article reads, “[Curtis Lavarello, executive director of the School Safety Advocacy Council] said his team had recently conducted a safety assessment at a school near Denver that had spent $600,000 fitting every window on campus with bulletproof [sic] film, Administrators had not realized that the film would prevent students trapped inside from breaking the glass to escape in an emergency.

Expanding Access Control Options

In addition to the glass, a number of other components are critical to security, including frames and hardware. For attack-resistant protection, ASSA ABLOY has partnered with School Guard Glass to develop complete openings that comply with the 5-aa10 test standards based on the FBI’s Active Shooter Report. The openings are designed to withstand an assault from a human attacker on a building while also making use of wood and hollow metal door construction— specific ASSA ABLOY frames, hardware, structures, and systems – that help ensure maximum security without sacrificing usability or design specifications.

According to ASSA ABLOY, the attack-resistant door openings can with-stand an intense four-minute physical attack after being shot 60 times with 7.62 NATO rounds or through an assailant’s use of hand tools. While the door or glass may not stop a bullet from penetrating the opening, the attack-resistant door assembly is designed to remain intact to prevent an attacker from breaching the opening.

In addition, ASSA ABLOY notes that its hollow metal door brands Ceco Door, Curries, and Fleming also offer Forced Entry Bullet Resistant Assemblies (FEBR), designed to resist an intense, prolonged attack by one or more intruders. The door, frame and hardware assembly is intended for applications where the highest level of protection and durability is required and can repel a 15-minute attack while also offering level 8 bullet resistance, providing the utmost life-safety protection for occupants in the room, according to the company.

“Our job is to design products that protect the people and places we all care about most,” says Trent Turner, director of Hollow Metal Marketing, ASSA ABLOY. “Door openings are usually the firs thing an individual will interact with in a building. Doors are the point of ingress and egress, and they are critical in the integrity of a building envelope. Whether it is making sure the elements stay out, or the people within are protected, we look to provide the highest-quality offerings for our high-performance doors so everyone remains safe and secure during any stress placed on a building.”

As yet another level of protection, ASSA ABLOY has introduced the IN100 Aperio wireless lock from brands Corbin Russwin and Sargent. Ideal for facililities such as schools or corporate office buildings, the IN100 is designed with ANSI/BHMA Grade 1 hardware and is available in cylindrical or mortise lock or exit device configurations. The IN100 uses Aperio wireless technology to allow facilities to leverage existing security infrastructure to easily expand access control coverage more quickly and affordably.

With its unique combination of wire-less technology and real-time communication of online access control, the IN100 enables remote lock/unlock in less than 10 seconds. The lock also features HID multiCLASS SE technology that provides simultaneous support for multiple credential types and allows facilities to use existing credentials or easily migrate to new ones. A patent-pending credential cache is also available to ensure access when the lock is offline from the electronic access control system. The lock is compatible with a broad range of access control systems to ensure easy integration with existing systems, and features Wiegand, RS-485, or Ethernet communications.

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