Charleston, S.C., Dealer Working to Make Schools SaferAugust 7th, 2013 by Editor
As concern over school safety mounts, one South Carolina window film dealership is taking action to help deter intruders. With the help of the Charleston County police department and Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) teams, Solar Reflections of Charleston and some area glass shops recently participated in a series of tests to help several school districts in the state review what safety measures they can take to beef up security.
“We worked with multiple school districts as well as the Charleston County police department and their SWAT teams. The goal is to either find a way to slow down the entry of intruders … or to find a way to scare them off,” says Lacey Grooms, sales and operations manager for Solar Reflections of Charleston. “The glass that is currently on the school windows per code is ¼-inch tempered glass … These school districts know they need to do something.”
Currently, Grooms says the schools are looking at a variety of options included in the ballistics and intrusion evaluation.
“With the initial testing we did a few weeks ago, they’re testing ¼-inch laminated safety glass as a replacement option for the current tempered glass. The second test was ½-inch non-laminated safety glass and the third option was ¼-inch tempered (which is what’s currently installed in the schools) with our film. We applied a 10-mil safety film to a door and permanently anchored it,” says Grooms.
“The performance of the film with the current glass was close to the performance of the replacement glass option they were looking at. Using the film with the glass will be a portion of the cost. I think it’s definitely an option they are looking at. We don’t know what route they will end up taking,” she adds. “The testing was pretty aggressive. The SWAT team used a .45 caliber and an AR-15 assault rifle. They put a lot of rounds of ammunition in these windows and for what they went through, they all held up very well.”
Though no safety film or glass is foolproof, Grooms says that window film is a strong contender based on its deterrent properties.
“One of the SWAT team leaders told us, statistically speaking, active intruders take the path of least resistance … An intruder isn’t going to expect to have to shoot the window film multiple times,” she says. “With film, it’s going to make holes. The bullet will go through the glass. The intruder is going to expect the glass to quickly shatter … With enough time and the right materials [an intruder could get through]; he’d have to cut or tear through where he put the holes. The SWAT team told us that someone in that mindset, an active intruder, doesn’t expect to have to shoot the window then use breaching to get in. Most likely, once they see the difficulty they have to face, they will likely run and flee the scene because it is taking too long. The goal is to either get them to leave and scare them or tremendously slow down the process and give authorities enough time to react.”
For Grooms, the decision to get involved was personal.
“I have children so this is something that I was passionate about, too,” she says.
Based on budgeting, Grooms says window film is the most cost-effective option for schools.
“School districts are not going to have the money to replace all of these windows with bullet-resistant, ballistic glass. They’d also have to replace the window structures and that’s a tremendous cost they won’t be able to handle. They are open to looking into safety/security window film options that will cost a lot less but are more realistic within their budget. The window film option being added to the tempered glass is, cost-wise, their best option.”
Though the tests have been completed, it could be well into 2014 before Solar Reflections hears any decisions.
“At this point it’s a matter of waiting and seeing what they are going to decide to do. Multiple school districts are interested in this and are looking at it. In passing, it will likely go one school district at a time,” says Grooms.
“Even if they decide not to go with film,” she says, “it’s exciting for our industry to be considered and be compared to the glass replacement at which they are looking.”