Volume 8, Issue 5, September-October  2004


Playing It Safe

Window Film in the Aftermath of Hurricane Charley
by Brigid O'Leary

Hurricane Charley swept through Central Florida in August, leaving an aftermath of destruction totaling in the billions. While window film alone may not have saved the 24 lives lost or the homes that were completely destroyed, there are those in the area who benefited from the application of film.

Steve Sabac, owner of Sun Coast Glass Protection Inc., a film and attachment company in Boynton Beach, Fla., saw Hurricane Charley from two different aspects.

Having recently filmed a building in Orlando, Sabac was able to see his work hold up to the ultimate test.
“The storm left Punta Gorda and went to Orlando, where we did the Orlando Sentinel building. The classifieds’ building … held up 100 percent. It was a success story,” he said.

He also saw buildings that didn’t stand up to the winds.

“I saw a lot of film on glass fail, by itself,” he said. “I saw film by itself sucked out of window frames.”

Whether it was a failure in the film due to such strong winds or a failure due to an improper installation depends a bit on each situation, but Sabac did see signs of both.

“We saw film by itself sucked out and some with glue sucked out, which means it wasn’t glued properly or was lacking the right amount of adhesive in the right places,” he said

Surging Market
Sabac, who has been installing film and security attachments in Florida for more than 10 years, has seen the ebb and flow of the market. Living and working where he does, a good portion of his business is tied up in safety film, though more of it provides protection from damaging weather. Still, much of what he has seen has been related to top-of-mind awareness; when the threat is there, people focus on protecting themselves, but when it’s not, they become lax in protective measures.

“After [Hurricane] Andrew there was a lot of work but, over the years, it’s kind of dwindled,” he said. “People are still interested, but there’s not a sense of urgency. The focus changed to 9/11 and terrorism and blast [mitigation]. The hurricane section has lagged in the last few years. I think there will be a redirection of focus, for products like Window Lock®, obviously.”

With the arrival of and devastation by Hurricane Charley, however, the demand for security film has already started to increase. In the short span of the interview for this article, Sabac twice had to take calls from clients who had been putting off having their windows filmed but no longer wanted to wait.

Sabac may be seeing an increase in business already, but some closer to where Charley hit land are still just getting back to business.

Quality Window Tint is located in Fort Myers, Fla., about 20 miles southeast of Punta Gorda, where Charley hit hardest. Owner Gary Lowry spoke to Window Film magazine a week after the storm saying he hadn’t seen any increase, but he also didn’t expect to see one right away.

“People are still trying to get stuff together,” he said. “It’s a long way to go before we start getting phone calls. [Right now] more people are interested in putting glass in the buildings itself.”

Employees at Quality Window Tint suffered little by way of personal damage and Lowry said the automotive side of his business is waning right now, but he’s not ready to make predictions about the future.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen with the residential glass down here since we have all the new codes down here, but a lot of the older buildings may have be brought up to code when they replace the glass,” he said. “The need will always be there but I don’t know that we’ll have a huge surge of security film to put on.”
Despite the damage to local areas, Lowry is confident about the window film business.

“As for the state of the economy, I can’t complain. I think we’re doing pretty well,” he said, after having to pause twice to answer phone calls.


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