Security Glass or Films: Make an Informed Decision on Security Upgrades for Your School

With increased media attention and bold students leading the charge, schools are looking for ways to make their buildings more secure to defend against armed attackers. The logical places to start are entry points, not only exterior doors and windows but interior as well. The problem is schools have so many doors in their buildings, making their primary dilemma in fulfilling this much-needed safety upgrade: budget. 

According to Education Week, the average U.S. public school is 44 years old and hasn’t had a major renovation in 12 years. This leaves the vast majority of school leaders looking to improve security via their typical annual budget, which doesn’t lend itself to major improvements – at least not major financial investments. While newly constructed schools can be equipped with complete door, frame, hardware & glass openings that are attack resistant, existing schools likely need budget-conscious retrofit solutions.

One current trend is aftermarket film. People think – we need to do something immediately, let’s slap some film on it and we’re covered. It’s inexpensive, at least initially, but over time it turns out to be more expensive. Here are some things to know about film before making a hasty decision that results in only a minor upgrade, yet leads to higher costs down the road:  

  1. Most films need to be replaced every 5-7 years, regardless of brand or type. Overall, film reduces optical clarity, can scratch easily and has a tendency to yellow over time. Meaning the initial investment for a film product may be less expensive, however the total cost of using a film product over a building’s lifespan is more costly than laminated security glass. Additionally, when used on exterior insulated glass units, applying film will void their warranty. Check all warranties before making a decision regarding the safety and security of investment. 
  2. The installation of film can also vary depending on the product, supplier and door or framing system it is applied to. For best results, films should extend beyond the glass stops, which hold the glass in place, so that the film exceeds the exposed daylight view. But film installers are not glazers or glass installers, and they might not understand the framing system well enough to remove the glass stops – so they install the film short of the perimeter thus creating unprotected points that may or may not be sealed with caulk. In this case, the glass could be broken and the entire piece will fall out and stay together- which would actually make it safer for the intruder.  
  3. Sure, glass with film applied is more secure than just standard glass, but if you choose a film product – be sure it has been tested against modern attack applications. Existing burglar (intruder) resistant test methods simply have a piece of glass laying horizontally, then a 5 pound steel ball dropped on it from various heights. Some point to the idea that a film might be blast resistant, and if it can resist a blast – surely it can resist an attack. This is simply not a like for like situation. With blast resistance, the purpose is to keep glass from becoming shrapnel. A blast is a highly concentrated pulse of air, and typically does not contain any blunt forced object hitting the glass. Similarly, laminated hurricane glass is not tested the same way as forced entry, these are either impacted with one (or two) 9 pound 2×4’s traveling at 34 mph. Modern attacks involve a relentless beating, usually accompanied with gunfire. 

An option anyone contemplating security film should consider, is an attack resistant opening with School Guard Glass™. These products have been tested for modern attacks, in accordance with 5-AA10 test standards established based on the FBI’s Active Shooter Report. When it comes to life safety and valuable property, it is imperative that glass not just be tested by itself, but also the glazing system (door/frame/hardware/window) it is to be installed into.  This ensures an owner or client receives a lab-tested assembly with results that can be transferred over to their facility. 

To really see the difference in these products and understand the limitations, watch this video of a side by side comparison of a modern attack on a door with film applied, then a door using School Guard Glass™ within a tested assembly from ASSA ABLOY. 

For more information regarding ASSA ABLOY Attack Resistant Openings, visit www.cecodoor.com or www.curries.com.