Improving school security with bulletproof windows, safety film and shades – The Beginner’s Guide

bulletproof glass schools bullet hole

I don’t know about you, but I personally love windows. They make a space feel bigger. They let the outside in, whether it’s the fresh air or the warm sunlight. They can make the difference between a place feeling like a cold, dark dungeon or a warm, bright home.

Windows do wonders for a class environment for these very reasons. The brightness and openness they create is conducive for learning and overall morale.

But in times of a crisis, they can also become a liability.

To ensure they do not become one, utilizing school security windows, as well as security window shades and security window films can serve as a stellar line of defense. Having these security measures on the classroom windows and exterior entrances of a school can help prevent the entry of an armed and dangerous intruder. And, when utilized within a school’s interior, they can be key in preventing an attacker from gaining access to areas of a school where they can continue to do more harm.

This piece will extensively examine these main points in detail:

  1. Bulletproof windows and glass
  2. Terms and options for high security doors and glass
  3. Security window film
  4. 3M Balistic Film
  5. Window security blinds and shades

How effective are the above options? Are they costly? And are they a viable solution for schools in the US? This article will answer those questions and more.

School security windows

The most common and effective security window are bulletproof glass windows. Do schools in the US use bulletproof school security windows?

The short answer is: No, not many. But that is changing. The longer answer goes that while a number of schools do lack bulletproof windows, there is a growing movement to implement bulletproof windows at schools across the country. Especially as tragic school-shootings continue to occur without an end in sight.

Cost has at times been a prohibiting factor in getting these bulletproof windows installed. However, many areas have been working at acquiring funding for these to be implemented through everything from ballot initiatives and fund-raisers, to petitioning politicians from the local, to State, to Federal levels. If you do not know whether your school has bulletproof windows or not, the odds are it may lack them.

That is nothing to get discouraged about, however, as clearly the idea is gathering steam to make sure schools are better protected with bulletproof windows. For that reason, being knowledgeable on the subject is more valuable than ever.

Do schools have bulletproof glass?

This question at first seems redundant, as bulletproof windows were just covered. But it’s actually something critical to consider as it brings-up a key point. Namely, your school could ensure that every single window is bulletproof.

But if there are glass doors at an entryway that are not bulletproof, that is a major oversight. It is alarmingly easy for someone to break through a glass door and proceed throughout the school. Thus, all the bulletproof windows in the world become useless if a glass door isn’t also made to be bulletproof.

As with bulletproof windows, doors made out of glass or with a small glass window within a wooden/metal door also have seen increased sales and utilization. While a number of schools do lack bulletproof glass, more are moving in the direction of ensuring windows and glass doors be bulletproof. That means either replacing them with doors that lack windows, or changing-out those small windows to ones with bulletproof glass.

How heavy is bulletproof glass? Is it thick enough to ensure safety?

Bulletproof glass itself is a heavy object, with a square-inch of standard class material varying in weight from three to possibly seven pounds, depending on thickness and overall size of the glass structure. There are different kinds of bulletproof glass with varying degrees of resistance, to combat a wide-range of firearms and bullets. The strongest type of bulletproof glass can weigh nearly 22 pounds per square inch!

In total, there are 8 levels of thickness, with it often recommended schools be at a level 3. Levels 4-8 often require highly expensive customization, and are designed for establishments such as key Government buildings or military bases designed to withstand an extreme-degree of attack as opposed to a single school-shooter.

To sum it up: Bulletproof glass is very heavy, and once installed it isn’t easily going anywhere should someone try to damage it.

Key examples of bulletproofing terms and options

Below are some key examples of certain bulletproofing terms and options that are important to know when it comes to discussion of bulletproof windows and glass.

High security glass door

This is a formal way of describing what is colloquially referred to as a “bulletproof door,” which features mostly glass. These are the kinds of doors often found at school entrances where a door may be mostly glass. Ensuring its high-security strength through bulletproofing is critical should someone try to get into a school in lock-down with their weaponry.

Total Security Solutions doors

total security solutions bullet resistant door
Image from Total Security Solutions

Total Security Solutions, or TSS, is one of the highest-regarded companies involved in the creation of bulletproof windows, doors, and other security solutions. Saying a door is a TSS door is a way of signifying it is of high-quality and easily customized to fit a particular need/space.

Level 3 security door

As was discussed above, there are differing levels of bulletproofing with level 3 being the highest level generally used within schools, as higher levels are reserved for military and political establishments. A level 3 security door is therefore one that features a level 3 bulletproof glass window, or, the door itself is made out of level 3 glass.

Bulletproof door cover

Should a door itself not be bulletproofed, these are essentially shields that can be moved onto the door in the case of an emergency to block-out any potential danger. Made of thick metal, they are perfect to cover windows in wooden/metal doors or to block-out glass doors once secured and in place.

While a bulletproofed door such as one of the above-listed ones is the best choice, an option such as this is better than having zero protection.

School security window shades

School security window shades (or lock-down shades or lock-down covers) are designed to cover classroom windows and door windows, which has at times raised the question of whether these windows should be covered at all. Why?

Well, it’s been argued by having everything-blocked out, as if with a blackout shade, it makes schools feel a lot less open and more compartmentalized. While that feeling is understandable, and it may at times make a classroom feel a bit isolated, it can also be pointed out that a school which is too open is a school that’s easy to take advantage of.

Therefore, even if window shades are not always in use within a school, it is unquestionably a smart idea to have them accessible in some way. After all, it makes it a lot harder for a shooter to try and aim through a window if the coverings are active at least in times of danger.

Examples of classroom window coverings

Classroom window coverings don’t need to have too much variation, so many of the examples listed below have little differentiation between them outside of some cost differences, or other fabrics being used, etc. Generally, it’s best to ensure that once a manufacturer is decided on for security window shades, that the school uses it property-wide. Different brands may have different aspects that make using a variety of companies a potentially confusing choice.

Hideaway Helper Lockdown Shades

A relatively inexpensive shade that can be pulled-down over a window and is (often) held in place with strong Velcro so as to ensure it does not accidentally pop back-up.

Guardian Lockdown Window Shade

Another shade that can provide black-out services, with the added bonus of being fire retardant.

Alp Lockdown Shades

These shades are fire-retardant as with many others and are a relatively inexpensive option that can help provide a good degree of extra-safety.

Classroom Lockdown Window Cover

The company that produces this shade also makes variations with other purposes such as sun reflection, but this option is of course intended to help blackout a door’s window.

How to Make a Classroom Lockdown Curtain

While all of the above-listed school security window shades are of good quality for a low price, there may be a situation where one is needed to ensure extra-safety but is unavailable. In such a situation a degree of ingenuity is called for.

Resources such as Pinterest are a brilliant place to find great ideas of how to rig-up fabric in a manner that makes it easy to drop it in case of an emergency. As well, there are other websites pointing out how even a thick black piece of construction paper taped to a door can serve as a black-out device in a pinch.

Essentially, any thick material that can completely cover a windowed door or a glass door (like a big blanket/comforter) can serve as makeshift school security window shades in an emergency.

Security Blinds

bulletproof windows school securityIt should be mentioned in this section that there are also security blinds. These are the kind of blinds that can be opened to allow those inside to see through the windows, but upon being closed completely block-out anyone from peering inside, much like school security window shades.

As these can cost more to install than a simple school security shade and often are bulkier, they are generally not needed for classroom usage. However, they can serve a purpose in areas with large windows, such as school offices.

School security window film

Window film is, in essence, a stellar option for windows that are not bulletproofed but need an additional layer of protection. Literally a near-invisible film that is applied to windows and makes them much harder to break through, due to an increase in thickness and the adhesiveness of the film.

The most well-known and common kind is 3M Ballistic film. There are two variations that work well together and are commonly utilized, the S140 and Ultra S600. The S140 helps hold broken glass together, and the Ultra S600 excels at tear-resistance.

About 3M Ballistic Film

3M Security Ballistic FilmWhile 3M will be the first to tell you that their Ballistic Film is not bulletproof, it is vital in helping slow-down intruders thanks to its retention of broken-up window fragments that makes breaking through glass harder. Thus, it provides valuable extra-time for law enforcement to arrive, and helps put a stop to any would-be violent intruders.
This especially holds true when the S140 and Ultra S600 are used in conjunction, although they can utilized separately.

S160 3M film cost

S160 3M film will in general cost between $7 to $9 per square foot. As windows can vary to a great degree in size, this would mean someone should expect to pay around $100 for a smaller window (3X5 feet/15 square feet) and up as the window increases in size.

Therefore, although not especially cheap, when looked-at in comparison to bulletproof glass which can cost thousands to install, it is clearly a good choice for a less-costly (and admittedly less protective) option.

3m Ultra S600 security window film price

Should one desire to utilize the extra-protection possible with the top-of-the-line window film, the Ultra S600 is the one to go for.

It can be utilized with S140 and provides excellent tear protection, meaning it’s hard to burst through or rip. That also makes it more difficult to break or shoot-through. These features mean it costs well more than S160, but it is still less in cost than bulletproof glass overall.

Is ballistic film for windows a smart choice?

Should someone desire to have more protection than a simple window, but are unable to afford an option such as bulletproof glass, then ballistic film is worth considering. For the reasons above, S140 or Ultra S600 are among the best, whether used in conjunction with each other or independently. Plus, 3M is well-known for their quality products.

They are by no means able to offer a level of protection found with bulletproof glass, but provide a degree of protection thanks to their ability to resist damage and slow down a potential intruder.

Other 3m Security Films

Even if ballistic film of the S140 or S600-level are not being used, there are general security films that can be beneficial to schools to install and use. At levels such as S40, S70, and S80, these films are great for reducing the damage of broken-glass from natural (or human) causes and still can be of assistance in an emergency situation.

They are much-less resistant to bullets, of course, hence not featuring any mention of ballistics in the product itself.

3m Security Film for Commercial Usage

As this is an extensive overview it should be mentioned even if it does not directly apply to school safety, that 3m has security film designed for commercial usage. These commercial-use films are explicitly designed to help prevent possible damage from wildlife, such as bird strikes, as well as make “smash and grab” burglaries more difficult.

This kind of film of course is not as useful for a school-setting, but helps to illustrate just how many options exist for window film.

3m Security Film installation

Generally, professional installation is highly recommended. It can cost only $50-$80 per window and be done perfectly, easily saving money that could be lost through shoddy self-installation. On top of that, incorrect installation could result in reduced effectiveness of the film, and become a major risk to the safety of those indide. Again, if you are already spending the money on window film, it makes a great deal of sense to pay a bit extra and have professional installation done.

Ace Bullet-Resistant Glass Film

Also known as glass laminate, it is worth mentioning that Ace Bullet Resistant Glass Film is another option for security window film besides the 3M brand and its assorted options. Ace has three levels–100, 200, and 300, that are equivalent to the various degrees of protection provided by 3M.

Don’t close the door on secure windows

modern classroom school security windowsWindows are a necessity for the well-being of students. Thankfully, the tools discussed here show how we can have the best of both worlds: the freedom of windows, with the security needed for today’s schools.

As this article has shown in its extensive and varied discussion, there are many options for school security windows, and of those options there is a lot to know. Depending on your budget and circumstances, bulletproof windows, bulletproof glass, or different assortments of security film may suit your school best.

For schools on a very reduced budget, even window shades can offer a degree of protection.

Of course, none of these options are a cure-all for the dangers a school may face. But as windows and doors are often the first thing an intruder, or possible school-shooter will encounter, having them reinforced via whatever means are both possible and affordable is clearly a wise choice.

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