Passing the Test: ASTM Develops Forced-Entry Security Standard

By Julia Schimmelpenningh

The terror and reality of school shootings are here and, sadly, may be part of our elementary, middle, high, and university students’ daily thought menu. Techniques and products are available to deal with these threats and help mitigate the number of injuries or fateful occurrences. Services such as mental health care, meaningful help, and awareness programs can keep an event from occurring. Nothing is perfect, though. It is critical to rely on multiple layers of protection by looking at everything from site orientation and room layout to building and construction materials. This is where standards development organizations such as ASTM International become valuable.

Addressing a Need

School shootings are not new, but the frequency and number of injuries and deaths that can result are rising. After becoming aware of this increasing trend several years ago, some construction industry segments gathered existing security standards, intending to provide municipalities with product specification guidance. Glazing was one area that was rich in existing security product standards. These resided in ASTM committees F12 and E06. Pulling content from these existing standards and modifying them to meet current needs seemed to be working—until it didn’t anymore. Even with resources to explain the standards and offer suggestions for product or performance level considerations, we didn’t see increased adoption of products capable of mitigating these security events. There seemed to be a tremendous amount of confusion and conflict. The confusion
stemmed from figuring out the best protection for the threat and vulnerability scenario, and the conflict was whether municipalities could afford the best products.

School Security ABCs

Several discussions occurred within a variety of groups and other industry events/workshops that led to additional scrutiny of the available glazing products. The effort was to identify significant barriers to adoption. The ABCs of school security—availability, benefits, and cost—seemed to cover the issues. Availability of consistent products and ability to compare products; benefits of one performance level to another; and contribution to comfort, energy consumption, maintenance requirements, and cost all kept appearing as issues. Could a municipality afford ballistic-resistant windows throughout the school? Would laminated glass in the newly designed double lobby work? Was hardening one area enough? Could the areas be hardened differently around a building? What do you do  for inside glazing? How can you measure the return on investment when talking about the lives of children and staff?

A single document can’t answer all of these questions. However, we did identify key improvement areas to include in developing a new international test method. These include:

• The sequence of attacks needed to be consistent and repeatable;
• A mechanical attack, rather than an unpredictable and non-repeatable human-driven attack, would allow an apples-to-apples comparison of products;
• The time to penetrate value assigned to testing was valid only for the specimen tested and based on laboratory technician (assailant) experience (learnings) and energy level at the time of the test;
• System testing versus component testing was critical;
• Predictor testing of components would make overall development costs more reasonable and thus more economically viable end products.

The newly developed ASTM test method uses language, procedures, and equipment from existing standards while keeping the above points in mind. This standard was developed under work item WK78966 Forced-Entry Resistance of Fenestration Systems After Simulated Active Shooter Attack. In this standard, glazing is weakened by multiple shots from a single type of gun. Forced entry is then attempted on the weakened glass by sequential impacts with an impactor. When applicable, locking mechanisms are subjected to similar testing. All systems must also meet applicable, traditional forced-entry standards before administering the test. There are eight rating levels in the standard with various energy levels of forced entry.

Safe and Secure

This standard is vital to the industry as it is the first security forced-entry standard that is entirely non-human driven, involves weakening followed by impact, and allows ratings at several levels. This gives specifiers performance and cost options to fit their needs. With this document addressing most of the identified key improvement areas, this standard should yield a good selection of high-performance products.

Typically, the products specified for security need to demonstrate multi-function capability, including safety glazing, sound abatement, energy, and solar performance, and sometimes even transmit school colors. The expected configurations for glazing and systems should be able to accommodate the security need and the multi-functional performance requirements.

Once published, we expect specifications for new schools and universities, as well as commercial and industrial applications, to adopt this standard quickly.

Julia Schimmelpenningh is the technical engagement manager—architectural industry for Eastman Chemical in Springfield, Mass.

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