by Julia Troy
In an active shooter situation, every second counts. Time is needed to take meaningful action, exit or barricade a room and keep others as calm as possible. Deterring or slowing an intruder is key to increasing the chances of survival. If a facility has access controls and all doors remain locked, occupants may feel a false sense of security. Locked doors, alarms and cameras are important, but ignoring windows and glass doors is a fatal flaw in many active shooter protection strategies. “If the door has a window pane, or if there is a window adjacent to a locked door, breaking the glass to gain entry is a tactic an intruder will likely use,” Campbell Window Film CEO Brad Campbell said. For safety, most buildings mandate fire exit panic hardware, which makes sure no occupants get trapped inside during a fire emergency. When an occupant slams into a door from the inside, the panic hardware triggers and the door flies open. While this is ideal for fire safety, it is a vulnerability when it comes to security. An attacker can simply break a window, reach in, and pull the panic bar to gain entry. This can be done more quickly than using a key to unlock a door and renders access controls useless. Glass doors and windows in entrances of buildings must be tempered for safety. Tempering is a process by which glass is heated and then rapidly cooled to create internal compression. By design, when the glass breaks, it shatters into tiny pieces, preventing any large shards of glass. The result is a safer window, but a substantially higher security risk. An attacker need only strike or shoot the glass for it to burst and fall into a pile of gravel.
To prevent entry, some organizations use security window film, but on tempered glass, film must be attached at the edges to prevent the whole broken piece from being dislodged. Often, especially on doors, attachment options are limited and can readily fail. Even if the attachment works, the film itself can be punched through with a hammer or the butt of a gun. “Window film may slow an attacker, but if he is prepared, the delay is often only a few seconds,” Campbell said. “He need only punch a hole large enough to insert his hand and pull the panic bar or access the thumb turn on the lock cylinder. Window film, however, is a viable solution for non-entry areas, especially when the glass is annealed.” When glass is annealed, it is heated and then allowed to cool slowly, to remove internal stresses and toughen it. Laminated glass, which consists of two pieces of glass with a film sandwiched in between, offers similar protection, but the vulnerability of puncture remains. Laminated glass can be thwarted in seconds if the attacker is prepared with an object that can penetrate or punch through the glass. And while an organization could turn to bulletproof glass to protect its entrances, it is prohibitively expensive. Additionally, the sheer weight of bulletproof glass often means owners need to remove the existing doors and windows and add in new framing, or change the hinges and door closers to accommodate the extra weight.
Campbell explained that his team at Campbell Window Film saw a clear gap between the lower-level and the high-end protection options, and developed a product called Riot Glass, model number AP25, to fill it. “This system includes an unbreakable, containment-grade panel and a retrofit framing that is attached to the outside surface of a door or window frame,” Campbell said. “It becomes a shield that protects the glass and prevents access.” While AP25 does not stop bullets, it will not crack or shatter under gunfire. Even after being riddled with bullets, it remains a barrier to entry because it cannot be dislodged, and a would-be intruder’s hand cannot pass through to open the door. AP25 is lightweight and can be retrofitted onto most glass doors. It can also be mounted in front of the windows adjacent to the doors for added protection. “Police response times vary greatly, but range on average from three to five minutes,” Campbell said. “We often see that a lot of damage can be done within that time frame, so slowing or preventing entry is crucial. This is why we set out to create a protection system that is affordable, superior in strength, lightweight and easy to install.”