Security and Solar Window Films: Campus Safety and Other Benefits

As universities beef up security on their campuses because of increased threats to student and faculty safety, campus officials continue to examine new and innovative ways to make their schools safer.

Little known on university campuses but increasingly in play for school districts nationwide is the installation of security films.

The security films are effective because they hold glass in place, are hard to penetrate, and make it extremely difficult for unwanted intruders to enter buildings. They have the added benefit of being shatter resistant during explosions and foul weather events and have energy-saving and solar reflective components as well.afety and security films on first-floor windows and entryways of important, high-traffic buildings.

Origin of Security Films

Safety and security window films were developed after the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City that killed 168, injured nearly 700 and damaged 324 buildings in a 16-block radius. Many of the deaths and injuries were the result of shattered, flying glass.

The films were subsequently installed on a number of federal buildings, including the Pentagon. When American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the building on 9/11, numerous lives were saved in parts of the building adjacent to the crash location because the film held the glass in place.

Since 9/11, installation of safety and security films have been mandated on high-security federal government buildings, privately owned buildings occupied by the federal government that are deemed high-security risks and many high-profile buildings. The film can be found on the U.S. Capitol, all U.S. House of Representative and Library of Congress buildings, The Willis [former Sears] Tower, Grand Center Terminal, the United Nations buildings complex, O’Hare International airport and the Denver and Philadelphia mints.

After Virginia Tech

It was the December 2012 shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, during which 20 students and six adults were shot and killed after the gunman shot out the glass, that triggered the installation of safety and security films at K-12 schools. The gunman entered the school after shooting out front glass windows near the school’s offices.

Sandy Hook has been the primary motivation for school districts nationwide to increase security in their buildings. In addition to safety and security films, the initiatives have included adding and upgrading surveillance cameras, improved phone systems, magnetic card entry systems and more secure entryways and other vulnerable building entry points.

The seminal Sandy Hook-type event for universities was the April 16, 2007 shootings at Virginia Tech University in Blacksburg, Virginia, that resulted in the deaths of 27 students and five faculty members. Since Virginia Tech, universities around the country have upgraded their crisis alert plans and building security efforts. Details are hard to come by as school officials are reluctant to talk about their security measures.

An article in Security Info Watch magazine reported on Princeton University’s effort in 2012 to install card scanner entry systems on all dormitories and high-risk buildings. Phase two of the plan involved installing card scanners on all dormitory room doors. When Princeton security officials were asked in mid-May if there was any intention to install safety and security window films on entryway doors and first-floor windows in high-risk buildings, university spokeswoman Min Pullan said, “Princeton University reviews its security needs on an ongoing basis. Steps are taken in response to any security needs, as and when they arise. We do not discuss the specifics of our security.”

Scott Rohde, director of public safety at Wesleyan University in Middleton, Connecticut, conceded that safety and security window film installation has been a discussion topic at Wesleyan, but declined to elaborate or talk about any security issues at the university. “A lot of what we do is not for public discussion,” he said.

Not surprising, it’s in Connecticut where safety and security film installation, among other security measures, took off in elementary and secondary schools post-Sandy Hook. The state legislature quickly passed the Violence Prevention and Children’s Safety Act, which led to the Competitive Grant Program for school security.

Since 2013 $42.7 million in grants have been awarded to 209 school districts for security upgrades. Three other states – Maryland, Virginia and Illinois – have established grant ntinued programs for K-12 school districts, with safety and security film installation quickly growing in popularity as a cheaper but effective alternative to installing bullet-proof glass. “[Film] sales have just skyrocketed,” said Mike Dorn, executive director of Safe Havens International, a nonprofit that advises school officials on safety. “We had some prior to Sandy Hook doing this, but it’s much more predominant since.”

Yet films remain under the radar on university campuses.

“I didn’t know they were out there,” said Mike Kaselouskas, assistant public safety director at the University Of Hartford and president of the Connecticut chapter of the International Association of Campus law Enforcement Administrators. Kaselouskas said he would look into the benefits of security films but noted a major difference between K-12 schools and university campuses are the number of buildings requiring protection on a college campus versus single-building campuses in the K-12 arena. “Universities are a different beast,” he said.

Federal Report Findings

According to a study commissioned by Washington after Virginia Tech and carried out by the FBI, U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Secret Service, there had been 272 targeted acts of violence on university campuses from 1909- 2009. The majority – 162 of them – occurred between 1990-2009.

Of the 272 documented incidents, 53.5 percent of them occurred in a single university residence and academic or administrative building. Only six of the incidents mirrored the Virginia Tech shootings – occurring in multiple buildings. The report’s findings focused on the growing number of threat-assessment teams active on university campuses and how they can play a critical role in identifying potential threats to student and faculty safety by individuals or groups.

Another study, carried out by the U.S. Department of Justice in 2012, found that universities have beefed up their armed security forces over the past decade and that most campuses have a mass notification system utilizing email, text messages and other methods to alert and instruct students, faculty, and staff in emergency situations.

As universities continue to expand their security measures, it’s likely that some – especially those with comprehensive security plans and financial support from the administration – will consider installing safety and security film on key buildings, such as the student center, sports arena, student residences and high-risk academic and administration buildings.

How And Why Safety And Security Film Works

Safety and security window films could be an important component of security upgrades to university campus buildings because they significantly slow and often thwart any attempt to enter a building.

The security film works because: (1) It’s thicker than regular window films – anywhere from 4 to 21 mils (2) It increases the shatter resistance of glass Proper installation of security film is essential to its success.

For the best, most effective results: (1) The film is first adhered to the inside of the glass; (2) A large bead of structural silicone, known as a wet glaze attachment system, is then applied around the perimeter of the glass, firmly securing the film in place. The combination of the security film and the attachment system is what protects and strengthens the glass, making it difficult if not impossible for any intruder to enter.

Additional Uses And Benefits Of Safety And Security Film

In 2009, a year after a major storm struck its campus, Southern Illinois University had security film installed on its student center windows. The decision to install the film involved two issues, according to the project’s architect, Brian Gorecki.

“The primary reason was to reduce the amount of glare from the sun that was coming into the building through the windows. It helped with the building’s energy efficiency and kept the carpets and furnishings from fading. A second reason was to protect the building’s windows from potential storms,” Gorecki said.

The sun control component of safety and security window films is another benefit universities might consider when seeking ways to save energy and preserve building contents.

In April, Yale University had a UV-shielding film installed at its Beinecke Rare book & Manuscript Library to protect its rare book collection from harmful sun rays. The clear film, attached to 48 windows, diffuses 99.9 percent of the ultraviolet sun light that comes through the windows but allows natural daylight into the space.

About the Author
George Tanber is marketing and website content director at Commercial Window Shield, a leading installer of security and solar reflective films at schools and government and privately-owned office and other buildings. Contact or visit