In Case of Emergency
How Window Film Can Mitigate Damage from Natural Distasters
by Katie Hodge
While natural disasters are, for the most part, unavoidable
there are some things that can help better protect those in nature’s way.
The recent earthquakes and tsunami in Japan have led to discussions about
the role window film can play in mitigating such disasters.
A product such as security film can assist in protecting victims from
shards of glass or the danger of objects entering through broken windows
during a hurricane or earthquake. In the case of Japan, film may not have
made any difference during the tsunami’s push, but it may have provided
extra protection during the earthquake.
“With Japan’s tsunami, film wouldn’t have been able to do a whole lot
because of the force of the water. However, film has been used for to
help mitigate damage in the case of seismic activity,” says Lewis Pitzer,
special projects coordinator for American Standard Window Film in Las
Vegas, Nev. “We can put the film on and in the event of racking or seismic
activity it can help make the glass break safely.”
How it Works
“Window films manufactured specifically for adding safety or security
properties to the glass or window on which they are installed offer extremely
valuable benefits to those occupying a building or owning a building,”
says Darrell Smith, executive director of the International Window Film
Association (IWFA). “The benefits for residential users include added
protection from the hazards of flying glass and ultra-violet protection,
at a minimum, and may also offer proven energy savings, glare control
and occupant comfort, depending on the product selected. For commercial
users…there are the added benefits of protection for tenants or building
visitors, possible extended useable lives of furniture and furnishing,
lowered operating costs, and minimal investment to achieve better economies
In addition to these benefits, being able to control or manage the glass
breakage has become important in protecting those inside the building.
Breaking safely means that the film will hold the glass shards in place
as opposed to allowing them to become possibly lethal projectiles. With
the addition of attachment systems, film can keep these shards intact
in the window frame and allow for a more secure building envelope.
Even stronger glasses, such as tempered, benefit from the addition of
“There is a benefit to adding film to tempered glass because you might
not want to lose that opening. When thinking of contingency planning,
if it‘s an area where you need to stay open like such as an emergency
response center or a business corporate headquarters on the trading floor,
you still might not want to have a situation where the tempered glass
breaks and exits the frame and you are sitting there with open windows,”
says Pitzer. “With film and the proper use of an attachment system on
two vertical sides it will hold the whole broken piece in place. You will
have a membrane that keeps the building envelope contained. That can be
very important for a building like a hospital.”
A variety of buildings in Japan could have benefited from the use of film.
Film used on school windows can protect children inside. Hospitals and
clinics need the ability to remain open and manageable and film can assist
with that goal.
“What we found in the Bay Area after the 1989 earthquake was a lot of
glass breakage. As widespread as the glass breakage was, there was no
way to get everything boarded up,” says Scott Haddock, president and CEO
of Glasslock Inc. in Easton, Md.
“There was lousy weather for a week after the earthquake and it was really
difficult to close up the envelope of all of these buildings. The good
thing about film is that, as long as you can keep it in the frames, you
can protect the envelope of your facilities.”
“There was a school system in California where there was a seismic event
and they had annealed glass on the buildings. The glass broke and pieces
broke off and went into the desk of the children. The kids weren’t there
thankfully, but they realized the hazard and put film up,” says Pitzer.
After the 1989 earthquake that rocked California, new programs were put
in place to better protect residents.
“After the 1989 quake, California implemented a program where schools
installed film or replaced their windows with laminated glass,” recalls
While the products has great benefits, the challenge for the window film
industry has been promoting film’s properties carefully and promising
only benefits that film actually delivers.
“There is a benefit
to adding film to tempered glass because you might not want to lose that
opening. When thinking of contingency planning, if it‘s an area where
you need to stay open like an emergency response center or a business
corporate headquarters on the trading floor, you still might not want
to have a situation where the tempered glass breaks and exits the frame
and you are sitting there with open windows.”
—Lewis Pitzer, American Standard Window Film
Promote With Care
It’s important for dealers to remember that window film is not a hurricane-proof
product. No product is. Film can help mitigate the effects of a hurricane,
but it cannot offer total protection. What products such as security films
and attachment systems can do is minimize damage. They can’t stop all
damage from taking place, but it can keep occupants safer and keep the
building sealed in some cases.
“With any type of product technology that has this many benefits and application,
it can be easy to confuse benefits or overstate performance for a given
situation,” says Smith. “For that reason, sellers of window films for
safety/security purposes should be very careful to make only performance
claims which are backed by manufacturer literature and published performance
specifications, which may include test reports and certifications.”
“It’s like a bomb blast scenario—typically the target building doesn’t
have a lot you can do for it, but it can help when it comes to the collateral
affects of buildings in the outer-lying areas that weren’t so close to
the epicenter. It can minimize the collateral affects of things like broken
glass,” says Haddock. “As long as it’s not over-“It’s like a bomb blast
scenario—typically the target building doesn’t have a lot you can do for
it, but it can help when it comes to the collateral affects of buildings
in the outer-lying areas that weren’t so close to the epicenter. It can
minimize the collateral affects of things like broken glass,” says Haddock.
“As long as it’s not over-sold it’s an excellent way to mitigate glass
fragments in an event whether natural or man-made.”
“One of the things that is really important for the industry to understand
is what film can’t do. Security film has so many benefits that there is
no reason to need to over-sell it,” adds Pitzer.
Using care to promote the product can result in an educated customer and
extra protection for buildings and occupants in danger’s way. Making unsubstantiated
claims can put both people and the product’s reputation in danger.
“Making a mistake or overstatement on the energy performance of a product
may cost the consumer some minimal amount of money; overstating the safety/security
performance of a film may lead to more serious life safety issues. And
the benefits are so great from their use, these products do not need to
be oversold,” says Smith.
Like many products, security films and attachment systems have the potential
to grow stronger in their capabilities. Technology is constantly improving
products which we consider cutting edge now.
“One of the things that might help down the road would be a thinner film
that would have the same properties as a thicker film in terms of tear-resistance.
It would be easier to install which would help the dealer and the end
consumer because it’s less expensive for a thinner film to go up. Plus,
they are easier to use with attachment systems,” says Pitzer. “I think
we are just scratching the surface of different configurations of ways
to attach the film so it will hold the glass during various threats. That
is one thing I love about the industry is that there are new people out
there that are always coming up with new techniques.”
Four Ways Impact Resistant Film Can
1. Protect Interior from Exterior
Impact resistant films can help keep the storms outside. By creating a
stronger barrier against winds and projectile objects windows covered
in film can hold up longer than just glass. Keeping out rain or debris
can provide added comfort and security to those still inside the building.
2. Minimize Injury from Glass Breakage
With the addition of attachment systems, impact resistant films can hold
broken glass in place. This pair of products can help prevent glass shards
from impaling inhabitants and belongings. In the event that a window is
broken this allows for the building envelope to remain secure from the
3. Ease Clean-Up
After the storm ends the use of impact resistant films allows for the
clean-up to be easy and minimizes the effects of the event within the
building. If the film keeps the windows intact in the attachment system
this can prevent rain flooding inside the building and damage to carpet
and drywall from rain. In the case of an earthquake, film can keep a building
like a bank or hospital secure from falling debris or looters.
4. Added Benefits
Impact resistant films also have many of the same benefits that regular
window film does. Consumers can get this film with ultraviolet protection
as well as glare control and plenty of energy savings benefits. These
added benefits make film valuable whether it’s storming or bright and
sunny outside. ?
Do you have a sales technique for selling impact resistant films that
works for you? E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
and share your experience.
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