Security Film’s Role in School Security

May 25th, 2023 by Nathan Hobbs

Security Film’s Role in School Security

By Chris Collier

‘‘As a parent, I have begun taking photos of my kids every day before they get on the bus because I live with the reality that it might be the last time I see them,” shares Jesse Chase, vice president of marketing at National Glazing Solutions LLC (NGS), a nationwide commercial window film company. “It is terrifying to send them to school, but I don’t really have any other options. Even private schools aren’t safe, as seen in the Nashville tragedy.”

A High Level of Concern

Chase isn’t alone. School shootings are a significant concern for many U.S. parents. In a 2022 Pew Research Center survey, roughly a third (32%) of parents of children in K-12 schools said they are very or extremely worried about a shooting ever happening at their children’s school.

“I remember being very concerned about my children’s safety in school, and that was 10 years ago,” says Michael Wanke, president of Patriot Glass Solutions by C-Bond Systems, located in San Antonio. “My youngest child, now an adult, is currently a third-grade teacher, so those fears remain. I will say that, although tragic, it’s rewarding knowing that we can offer some
protection from possible intruders and some sense of security for students and faculty, many of whom often feel like sitting ducks.”

In a 2018 Pew Research Center survey, 57% of teenagers said they are worried about the possibility of a shooting happening at their school, with one-in-four saying they are very worried.

“It is distressing that so much capital and attention is being committed to these problems that it lowers the investments we need to make in actually educating our kids,” says father-of-three Jeff Franson, the CEO of FutureVu Brands in Marietta, Ga. “These terrible events also create more stress across society and impact the mental health of the community, which is never good. Kids shouldn’t be concerned about active shooters, but they are now. However, kids are more resilient than we think, and we need to make sure as parents and responsible parties, we are not making the situation worse for them.”

Seeking Answers and Smashing Misconceptions

The glass doors at the Covenant School in Nashville didn’t stand a chance. Rounds fired from close range by the 28-year-old shooter made easy work of two sets of double glass entrance doors. The attack on Monday, March 27, 2023, killed six people, including three children.

The tale is as old as time. An attacker easily accesses yet another school. Publicly available security video from the school shows the shooter firing several rounds from an assault weapon at the glass doors. The glass shattered after a couple of rounds.

That’s because it appears the glass entrance doors were not bullet-resistant or fortified, as reported by Window Film magazine sister publication USGlass magazine. While bullet-resistant glazing will not stop a determined attacker, it will hold the glazing in place for a brief period, adding time for those inside to find shelter and help to arrive.

“Based on the video I saw, I would say it was tempered glass,” says Mark Jacobson, a market manager at Kuraray America Inc. “If they had the appropriate laminated glass in the doors and forced-entry resistant door systems, it most likely would have prevented the tragedy.”

According to a 2014 FBI report, police response times to active shooter events from 2000 to 2012 averaged three minutes around the country. Bullet-resistant doors would have deterred the Nashville shooter by maybe six or seven minutes, says Mac Hardy, director of operations at the National Association of School Resource Officers. This is enough time for law enforcement officers to respond before a shooter enters a school.

Glass and Film Buy Time

Society is seeking answers, and fortified glass and glazing is part of the solution. But what about security film and attachments? NGS has installed security window film in hundreds of K-12 school districts and higher education campuses nationwide.

“There is a lie being spread by fraudulent companies that security window film is bulletproof,” says Chase, whose company was named 3M’s National Dealer of the Year in 2019, 2020 and 2022. “There is no such thing as bulletproof security window film, and anyone who is selling it that way should not be trusted.”

Wanke agrees there are misconceptions regarding standard security films.

“Probably the biggest misconception is that many people think that standard security films can stop bullets, but that is not the case,” Wanke adds. “However, our C-Bond BRS can stop bullets due to our proprietary glass strengthening technology, which is applied to the glass prior to the application of the window film and then in between each additional layer of window film.”

Chase also stresses the importance of pairing an attachment system with security film. “We do not sell window film without security attachments,” he says. “If you install security window film without security attachments, you are almost worse off because you have created a scenario where the entire lite of glass can be knocked out in one piece.”

Franson echoes Chase, saying, “Purchasing the installation of security film for life-safety reasons without an attachment is akin to jumping out of a plane with a parachute without a rip cord. We will install what the customer spec mandates, but we make it clear to them that our recommended film solutions are attached to the frames for optimal performance.”

Franson’s company has installed various security products in more than 1,000 school buildings spanning 30 states since 2015. He says the industry must tackle two crucial issues. “First, there is a misconception of the ballistic performance of window films on building glass,” Franson says. “Some vendors are allowing these misconceptions to spread and, in fact, put out misleading information that confuses the purchaser and can provide a false sense of security. The liability involved here will ultimately manifest into bankrupted businesses and potential legal/criminal exposures. Hopefully no one is killed because of this negligence. Second, there is a significant gap in installation standards. The industry needs to step up and create a standard from which we can all work. This is a life-safety issue, and without universal standards, the industry will suffer and not grow at the rate that it otherwise would.”

Security Analysis

However, security film could have impacted the active shooter situation in Nashville, according to Window Film magazine Top Dealer NGS.

“The security camera footage made it obvious that the glass doors were unprotected by any glazing security solution,” says Chase. “The perpetrator shot the glass doors and windows and gained access to the building in seconds. Had the glass doors and windows been strengthened with security window film, the murderer may have been delayed by up to six minutes, buying precious time for first responders to arrive—potentially saving lives.”

Patriot Glass Solutions offers two types of systems: forced entry and bullet-resistant systems. Both forced entry and bullet-resistant systems feature C-Bond Secure technology, a patented nanotechnology solution that strengthens the underlying glass and improves the adhesion and cure-time of the window film, according to the company.

The company offer various levels of forced entry protection depending on customer needs. Levels are determined by the mil thickness of the film and can be anywhere from eight mil to 23 mil and are installed with a structural silicone attachment system. The company also offers a bullet-resistant film system certified to meet National Institute of Justice standards Level I, Level II, Level IIA, which will provide protection against a nine mm and 357 Magnum.

“Security film or ballistic film would have held the shattered glass together and could have delayed or even prevented the shooter from gaining access to the school, which would have given law enforcement additional time to intercept the shooter, potentially saving lives,” says Wanke, whose company received a $169,000 purchase order to install C-Bond BRS, a patented ballistic-resistant window film system, at the San Antonio Police Department this year. “The use of security film would have required the shooter to force the broken glass out of the frame to gain entry.”
Agreeing with his industry peers, Franson says, “Without question, properly installed, thicker gauge security film with a proper attachment system would have delayed the attacker.”

Security Spike

“Inquiries for security film and related products for schools have increased every year since Sandy Hook,” Franson says. “When active shooter events occur like Parkland and Uvalde, we will see a spike in inbound activity of 300-400% or more. The recent shooting in Nashville created a stream of inbound activity that week that was unprecedented.”

Chase takes pride in being a part of the solution in trying times such as these.

“It brings greater meaning and fulfillment to my work to know that we can help strengthen glass security in schools nationwide,” Chase says. “I have made it a personal mission to help protect students and staff in as many K-12 and higher education campuses as I can. After the Nashville tragedy, I reached out to my children’s local school district leaders to inquire if their school’s glass has security window film installed. It does not. I am working with them in hopes they might have the desire and budget to install security film in the schools. I would sleep a little bit better knowing my kids go to a school where an active shooter would be delayed from gaining access through the glass.”

Franson says security window film must be understood to be part of an overall building hardening plan to prevent active shooters from creating mayhem.

“When properly installed, our industry’s products are great at delaying entry into a building,” Franson says. “This time delay allows first responders and responsible parties critical time to implement additional security measures and go into lockdown. Understood through this lens, it’s a no-brainer for an administration to add security film retrofits into their overall safety plan.”

Wanke adds, “Security films or bullet-resistant film systems are but one component of school safety. However, it is an important component that is easily retrofitted. Although I do feel that this is in large part a mental health issue, as the last several shooters had known mental health problems, we are not here to say we can prevent all shooting tragedies, dictate reform on mental health, gun control, etc. We are here to be a part of the solution to try and minimize these tragedies from occurring in the future.”

Mandated Safety Solutions

Nineteen children and two adults were killed in a shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde County, Texas, on May 24, 2022. In the aftermath, the Texas Education Agency (TEA) proposed new school safety standards that include security film installations.

The TEA’s proposed School Safety Standards rule requirements cite the following:

“Windowed doors on the ground level or windows that are adjacent to or near a door and are large enough to allow someone to enter if broken must be reinforced with entry-resistant film unless within a secured area.”

The TEA defines a secured area as: “A fence or wall that is at least six (6) feet in height and has anti-scaling design features or is eight (8) feet high; and must be well maintained, and if gated, allows for emergency egress.”

In terms of maintenance requirements, the “school system must perform maintenance checks twice annually to ensure that the facility components within the rule function properly and as intended.”

In October, the State of Texas Legislative Budget Board approved $400,000,000 to “assist school districts in replacing or upgrading doors, windows, fencing, communications and other safety measures.”

Michael Wanke, president of Patriot Glass Solutions by C-Bond Systems, located in San Antonio, has already seen an increase in security projects.

“With the pending proposed requirements set forth by the Texas Education Agency and the numbers of shooting incidents overall, we are seeing a significant increase in demand for our security film and ballistic-resistant film,” Wanke says. “Schools are looking at these types of systems because they are effective and relatively inexpensive compared to alternatives.”

Chris Collier is the editor for Window Film magazine. Joshua Huff of USGlass magazine also contributed to this article.

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