Protecting Windows can Protect Your School

While fear of active shooter events can cause school officials to consider reducing the use of glass, in building design, this approach can actually increase the risk of violence. Proper utilization of natural surveillance as seen in this building design, can help occupants prevent crime and spot an aggressor in time to implement protective actions. Note how this design allows occupants to see between vehicles in the front parking lot

While fear of active shooter events can cause school officials to consider reducing the use of glass, in building design, this approach can actually increase the risk of violence. Proper utilization of natural surveillance as seen in this building design, can help occupants prevent crime and spot an aggressor in time to implement protective actions. Note how this design allows occupants to see between vehicles in the front parking lot.

Experts on Glass Protection

I had an unexpected opportunity to present at an interesting conference in St. Petersburg, Florida this summer. I had an opening in my schedule and I am very glad that I had the opportunity to present there. Hosted by Madico Safety and Security Window Films, the event drew invitation only participants from across the United States, Malaysia, Ecuador, China, Korea, Africa, Mexico, and Barbados. The highly technical training program was focused on advanced level considerations for the proper selection, use of and installation of protective options for a wide array of types of windows. Madico invited me to hear a top expert on blast protection on the day prior to my presentation. As I expected, I found that session and several by other subject matter experts to be very interesting, informative and highly technical. I quickly realized that the participants as well as the presenters were very experienced and knowledgeable in their fields.

Why Windows Make Schools Safer

While the various presenters provided very detailed information on the advantages and limitations of various approaches to protecting building occupants from gunfire, explosions and forced entry, my contribution was quite different. I opted to focus on making sure the participants of the event understood the tremendous protective benefits of windows in school classrooms, offices and other areas.   While there are many myths about the frequency of attackers breaking or shooting through glass windows during attacks in U.S. K12 schools, the reality is that these types of attacks have thus far been extremely rare in America. While it can be very important to properly protect windows in specific situations, it is just as important to have windows in specific places to help reduce risks associated with crime, violence and accidents.  For example, while active shooter deaths represent about 8% of school homicides in U.S. K12 schools from 1998 to 2013, CDC data shows that 45% of school homicide victims are killed in situations involving interpersonal disputes such as fights. As student supervision is one of the most effective methods to reduce fights in K12 schools, good natural surveillance is extremely beneficial in schools. The use of thoughtfully placed windows is important to good natural surveillance.

The need for protection of glass in key areas

While our analysts do not typically suggest ballistic and blast protection as a stock strategy for all school windows, we often suggest our clients carefully consider security protection for key glass windows, and at times, consideration of ballistic protection and in some specific situations, blast protection. In many instances, we would prefer properly protected windows be used to provide good natural surveillance over the elimination of windows out of fear of an active shooter. Windows can help prevent many types of violence while also helping increase natural light, improve school climate, and avoid the institutional look that can increase crime and the fear of crime on campus. Protective options can often be used for windows that can allow staff to observe key areas such as hallways, atriums, weight rooms. and pool areas.

Balance the fear of active shooters

A good school safety approach balances the risks of rare and catastrophic events with those that claim the majority of lives on K12 campuses. Reducing the gang activity and interpersonal conflict that are responsible for more than 70% of all U.S. school homicides is very important. Protecting windows from various types of hazards can be complex and expensive. School officials should take care to draw on the expertize of manufacturers and vendors who have a high degree of competency in this area. It was truly a pleasure to have the opportunity to meet and interact with so many experts on protecting glass in settings across the globe.

Michael Dorn

Michael Dorn

Michael Dorn serves as the Executive Director of Safe Havens International, a non-profit school safety center. The author of 27 books on school safety, Michael’s campus safety work has taken him to 11 countries over the past 34 years.
Michael Dorn
About Michael Dorn

Michael Dorn serves as the Executive Director of Safe Havens International, a non-profit school safety center. The author of 27 books on school safety, Michael’s campus safety work has taken him to 11 countries over the past 34 years.