Reinforcement of Perimeter Glass Critical for Building Security
The tragic mass shooting at The Convent School in Nashville, TN on March 27, once again demonstrated the random and devastating nature of gun violence. Three children and three adult staff members lost their lives inside of a school – a place where students, staff and their families should feel safe. The school was connected to a house of worship, Covenant Presbyterian Church.
So many of our clients, particularly in large urban centers such as New York City, are schools co-located inside of houses of worship. These buildings are often large and historic, rarely new construction, with multiple entrances and exits. While it is imperative, there is an inherent tension between physical security and the open, welcoming nature of a house of worship. Building entrances and visitor management are critical in meeting both goals. Even if entrance doors are locked, glass that is not reinforced can provide easy access to an intruder with a weapon. Large street facing windows raise similar concerns.
The Nashville assailant shot out the glass entrance doors to the building causing them to shatter and allowing her to enter through the open hole. We saw a similar mode of entry at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012, where a large window next to the entrance doors was shattered with a bullet allowing the assailant entry into the building.
Modern glass doors and large window panels are almost always made of tempered glass, meaning that when breached they break into small pebbles, protecting against sharp shards of glass. Tempered glass however, makes entrance even easier for a determined shooter.
Ideally glass on entrance doors and perimeter walls should be bullet-resistant: laminated glass, treated with a polycarbonate shield, or at the very least heavy duty blast-resistant film. Bullet resistant laminated glass (and there are many brands on the market some of which are made specifically for schools) will hold together when shattered. This glass is the most visually appealing (it looks like ordinary glass) and can usually fit into existing window and door frames.
Laminated glass consists of multiple layers of glass held in place by polymer interlayers which keep the glass bonded even when breached. Although laminated glass, depending on the specifications, may allow a bullet to pass through it, it will not shatter or come away thus allowing time for a school to activate its crisis response protocol and to summon first responders. We have seen grades of laminated glass that will keep an intruder at bay for between 6 and 12 minutes. As the average police response time is approximately 5 minutes, reinforcement at this level can save lives.