Volume 48, Issue 11- November 2013
In late October, Fox 17, a Fox affiliate TV station in Western Michigan, published a story on its website detailing a presentation made by one Lt. Col. Dave Grossman about school safety. The online article was entitled “Expert Says Wired Glass Doors and Windows Could Save Lives During School Shootings.” In it, Grossman declared that schools can use wired glass to deter intruders in schools because of its safety properties.
“For about 500 years we’ve had the technology to put wire mesh in the window or put a laminate film on the window. You don’t even know it’s there,” he is quoted as saying in the article. “You can shoot and shoot holes all day long and they’re not reaching through to kill our kids.”
I hate when people give misinformation about glass. I don’t like it when people ignore glass, but I absolutely abhor it when misinformation gets distributed. We posted it in on our USGNN.com™ website so that our industry could see what was being advanced in the consumer press.
Whose fault is it? Well, Grossman had wrong information, but he is just one person. I venture to say everyone who heard Grossman’s speech now thinks of wired glass as a safety product. And just about everyone who read the Fox 17 article does, too (unless they read the comment I posted at the end), and that’s not even counting the people who told other people or who forwarded the article on to others.
The Fox station itself did nothing wrong because it was merely reporting what was said at the meeting and attributed it properly. The station took Grossman to be the authority and did not check out his comments, although it would have been nice if they had.
It is discouraging when misinformation about glass is promulgated and, in cases such as these, also could contribute in injury or worse.
What is also of great concern in this situation, or anytime a hurricane or tornado hits and glass is blamed, or when reports of exploding balconies dominate the news is this: there is simply no industry-mechanism to counter and respond to such comments. We remain mute as an industry.
Every industry I can think of has an official “rapid reaction team” to make sure proper information about its products is disseminated. And absent any such mechanism, people often turn to the industry’s press.
This is why I got dozens of phone calls about the balcony situation. The sad truth is it’s hard to get an industry to speak with one voice jointly when everyone is concentrating on protecting their own tail legally. That may be more a function of the litigious business climate in which we live than anything else, but that is the way it is.
I have heard a couple of ideas on how we might handle this and I will share them with you in the coming months.
There was, however, a positive outcome from the Fox story. The following day I received a call from the president of a mid-sized glass company in the suburb of a very large metropolitan area. He had a contract with the big city’s school system and was in the process of renovating a stairwell and skylight in a middle school.
“The plans call for floor-to-ceiling wired glass,” he said, “and I think I just read something on USGNN.com this week about that. The architect thinks it’s a safety glass. I need something to help convince him it’s not.”
So I went to our archives and sent him over links to a number of stories we’ve published during the past few years about children being maimed, injured or worse and school systems being sued for using wired glass. (Visiting our archives is something any reader can do by the way, just go to http://www.glass.com/archives and put in your search terms and you should get any stories from our print publications for the past ten years and from our online news services for the last two years or so).
The president called me back the next day with a short message. “Thank you,” he said, “I don’t think that school system will ever be using wired glass again.”