Shattered glass–worse than a bomb

Shattered glass–worse than a bomb

Lobash, Mike

DURING A BOMB BLAST in a building, brick crumbles, fire erupts and smoke rises. None of those, however, are as likely to cause as many injuries as windows.

Those who study bomb blasts and their effects on buildings say shards of glass flying through the air are responsible for most of the lost lives and injuries resulting from a bomb blast. An ordinary glass window can be broken into thousands of shards, even if located a good distance from an actual blast. When shattered with enough force, each shard becomes an airborne dagger

One of the most cost-effective ways to prevent glass from causing a multitude of injuries is to use window film. Window film acts as a glue to prevent glass from flying in different directions. Although the film doesn’t keep glass from shattering, it does prevent damage created by flying shards of glass. When the film is properly applied, the windows moves as a unit, dangerous only to those in its direct path. Without the film, the shock of a bomb shatters the glass and sends pieces in all directions, even toward the ground in the case of a high-rise building.

When applied and maintained properly, says Rick Barrett, senior instructor for physical security at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, window film is effective immediately. Tests have shown that windows covered with film can withstand the force of a Louisville Slugger swung at full force. Windows without film fail such tests.

The advantage window film has over other products, such as laminated or tempered glass, is it is easier and less expensive to install, says Jeff Dingle, director of protective operations at Carter Presidential Center in Atlanta. At a cost of about $10 per square foot, window film is a good way to protect the building without having to disrupt an operation to install it.

When retrofitting a building with laminated or tempered glass, old windows must be removed and new ones installed. Other advantages to window film include its limited effect on the clarity of a window. Laminated glass tends to be thicker than ordinary glass and can distort images.

Despite its ability to improve shatter resistance, window film does have drawbacks, says Barrett. Chief among them is the care that must be taken when windows are cleaned. Scratches in windows film reduce its ability to hold glass together and chemicals in some cleaners can weaken the strength of the film over time. However, if proper cleaning products are used window film can last up to 15 years, providing protection to buildings and their occupants.

Every applications might not be suited for window film, says Dingle. Window film is not bullet-proof glass and should not be used as a substitute in applications where protection from gunmen is desired.

“The best way to decide what to use is to know what you’re trying to do before any type of window film is concerned,” says Dingle.

E-mail comments and questions to mike.lobash@tradepress.com.

Copyright Trade Press Publishing Company Feb 1999

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