Volume 49, Issue 5 - May 2014

NewsAnalysis:School Safety

Why Has Talk About Security Glazing in Schools Fizzled Out?

In 2013, talk was rampant about the need for hardening schools to protect students from external threats (see May 2013 USGlass), and much of that discussion included the need for security glass systems.

Some states followed through on the talk. In Connecticut, an Act Concerning Gun Violence Prevention and Children’s Safety was signed into law in April 2013. Among other things, it tasked the newly created School Safety Infrastructure Council with developing school safety infrastructure standards for school building projects. Included in the list of such infrastructure improvements were the reinforcement of entryways with bullet-resistant glass, “penetration-resistant vestibules” and other security improvements “as they become industry standards.” New York also enacted a safe school act in 2013, the New York Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act, which offers provisions for increasing school safety. The law includes funding for door hardening among other measures. According to information issued by the New York State Education Department, acceptable door hardening items include removal of sidelites or changing vision panels to limit their size, as well as replacing doors and their hardware, adding bars or grills over existing glass or adding security films. The department does note, however, that schools are eligible for aid for installing bullet-resistant glass in entrances, but not around the school perimeter.

And in June 2013, the West Virginia School Building Authority approved a safety measure requiring new schools built in the state to have shatter-resistant glass.

But there’s more that can be done.

According to Liz Grimes, business development manager, security glazing and safety eyewear, for Curbell Plastics, the challenge is that many schools still don’t know what to do. “They take a look at different things like security guards, etc., but actually the point of entry for the building is your first defense,” Grimes says.

Many school districts might cite funding as a reason not to go forward with glass retrofits, but Grimes says more often it’s a matter of education. “I think we have to educate them about what secure glass is. I’ve read awful articles where architects say you’ve got to close up all the doors—but then what happens in a fire? These are people who just don’t know because they don’t deal with [glass].”

Grimes continues, “I think funding also plays a part, but there are a lot of different options. When a lot of people think about security glazing, they think about the $60 to $100 per square foot Level 3, Level 6 [bullet-resistant glazing]—they don’t need that. They need something to slow the attacker down.”

As Grimes explains, “ANSI Z97 is based upon a 10-year-old child running at a certain speed at a piece of glass and if that glass breaks, it breaks safely, so it doesn’t severely cut the child. So all of the schools have tempered glass and there’s nothing wrong with tempered glass. But if you shoot a bullet at it, it immediately falls in a million little pieces. It doesn’t slow anyone down. You just walk right through. If you look at laminated glass … it’s not going to be bullet-resistant, but [an attacker] is going to be standing there all day trying to get through it. It’s all about time.” Grimes chairs the Protective Glazing Committee under the Glass Association of North America’s (GANA) Laminating Division. The group recently completed a Glass Information Bulletin (GIB) about security glazing for schools to address what they felt to be a lot of misinformation about the different types of security glazing. The GIB, “Security Glazing for Schools,” cites the recent update of FEMA 428, BIPS 07: Primer to Design Safe School Projects in Case of Terrorist attacks and School Shootings, and goes through the various types of protective glazing and their different constructions.

While the GANA information fills a void, it’s now a matter of getting it in the hands of the individuals who can use it to make a difference, and that is proving challenging. The committee has approached the U.S. Department of Education about a nationwide educational campaign on security glazing, only to be told such an effort would have to go state by state. That’s one avenue the group is now examining: a grassroots campaign through which GANA members visit their local school boards to talk about security.

That education can take a number of formats, such as the importance of daylighting in schools as well as the need for security.

Another reason to continue work on educating school systems is that this security issue is one of a multitude of challenges facing each and every school. “Unfortunately, and this is just a personal opinion, if it’s not in front of everybody’s face we forget,” Grimes says. “Are we going to wait until it happens again?”

For more information on the GANA GIB, visit www.glasswebsite.com/techcenter/. —Megan Headley


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