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Architectural & Engineering Magazine Reprint

ShatterGARD® – A Thin but sure Line of Defense
By Jeffrey A. Dingle, CPP Director of Protective Services for the Carter Center located in Atlanta, GA

On two occasions in a recent thirty-day month period, a window was knocked out of the entrance of a major retailer’s store in an up-scale mall in Atlanta. The target was a designer clothes store and the loss each time was in the ten’s of thousands.

A Zales Jewelry store in Florida was robbed of several extremely large diamond rings. While an accomplice distracted the store’s salesmen, the top of the glass display case was smashed and the thief simply grabbed a handful of rings and ran out of the store.

With all of the high tech security available, how did this happen? The point of entry in both cases was glass. In one case, the glass was broken, the burglars stepped through the eight-foot tall window frame, loaded the merchandise into a waiting car, and left, while in the other instance, the showcase was eaily smashed by a thief.

Glass is one of the weakest points in any physical security program and the most secure facilities are generally the ones with the least glass. Glass is chosen as an entry point because it breaks easily. All facilities have walls, and in many cases sophisticated locking systems that are difficult to breach. However, a hammer or even a rock is all that is needed to breach most windows.

There are generally three ways to protect glass. Removal (“boarding up”), bars/gates, or replacement with bullet resistant material. Removing glass or boarding up windows is not an option in most cases. Windows allow light, improve aesthetics and are necessary for a variety of reasons. Bars allow light, but are aesthetically not appropriate for ma[n]y applications.

A remaining option to retain the appearance of glass is to replace existing glass with ballistic (bullet resistant) “glass”. Ballistic glass is not really glass, but any one of a combination of clear laminate materials. Aside from being expensive and difficult to work with, ballistic glass is very thick and often provides a distorted image.

While we cannot in all cases prevent someone from attempting to break glass, breakage of glass can be controlled and minimized. Although breakage cannot be prevented. Placing security film on a window can prevent glass from separating. Using this process, an optically clear (or tinted) film is applied directly to existing glass. If undue force is applied the glass still breaks, but the film holds all of the broken pieces together. Holding glass together serves two purposes. First, it prevents an opening from being created. Second, collateral damage (such as injuries from flying glass) is significantly reduced.

The reduction in collateral damage is especially important in situations where there is a threat or a potential for a bomb blast. In the case of an explosive, flying glass and debris are a major source of personal injury. A properly filmed window not only stops glass from flying, it also prevents other debris from flying through the window.

Applying film to glass is relatively inexpensive when compared to replacing glass with ballistic laminate. Additionally, filming without the remodeling time and effort that is required to replace glass. In most cases, film can be installed without significant operational disruption. If properly applied, the film is optically clear and does not alter the appearance of the glass. It is difficult, if not impossible, to tell what glass has film and what glass does not.

A 15-millimeter film placed over glass was tested in August 1996. The filmed glass successfully prevented penetration by test rounds fired at 25 feet from a .38 Special (158 grain at a maximum velocity of 780 fps), 9mm Luger (124 grain at a maximum velocity of 1160 fps) and .44 Magnum (240 grain at a maximum velocity of 1410 fps). While filming glass does not guarantee that a bullet will not penetrate, it significantly reduces the possibility of damage from firearms.

Filming glass provides several benefits in addition to breakage control from intentional damage. Film can be either clear or tinted, with tinting aiding in reduction of heat and glare. Window film also provides protection from ultraviolet rays. While neither of these are a primary security reason to film windows, they are additional benefits that improve the cost-benefit analysis of filming.

Filming windows also increases protection from storm damage, keeping glass intact and lessening water damage. Potential fire damage is decreased by lessening the possibility of the glass shattering from the pressure of radiated heat and feeding oxygen to a fire.

Does it work? Security Consultant David Henderman with Atlanta based Operations Security International recently had the opportunity to test a sample. “I beat on it with a Louisville Slugger, and I couldn’t break it,” stages Henderman. “Ultimately it was the bat that broke first.”

Glass in almost any application can benefit from filming. Patrol car windows are treated to provide additional protection to patrol officers, while vehicles used to transport dignitaries are ShatterGARD treated in the interest of executive protection. Private citizens are filming personal cars in urban areas where auto burglaries are a problem.

Because of the low cost, private residences are filmed in high crime areas to prevent burglaries, as access by residential burglars is generally gained by either reaching through or climbing through broken glass.

Window film seems to be a “clear” choice for physical security protection.

Atlanta, Georgia based ShatterGARD provides security window film for a variety of applications. ShatterGARD Vice President Jordan Frankel states, “Window film is available in different thicknesses and tints, depending on the requirements of the application. ShatterGARD films are maintenance free and reduce the need for additional window protection.” ShatterGARD has recently installed security window film on museum windows, as well as Marriott hotels and Zales Jewelers. According to Frankel, there has been a significant increase in the use of ShatterGARD, both domestically and internationally, due to the reliability of the product and low key nature of the application. For more information see 1-888-306-7998 or 770-399-0064.