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EDUCATION

WHY GLASS SAFETY MATTERS IN EDUCATIONAL SETTINGS

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Students in Class

Installing the right type of glass can help protect students and staff from all types of potential threats without sacrificing the sense of openness and visual connectivity that glass provides. Whether the goal is to prevent injuries from accident impact with the glazing, ensure occupant comfort or save lives during a fire, active shooter, hurricane, tornado or earthquake, school districts and school designers can use glass to address these safety concerns.

Here are some of the ways that today’s high performance glass products help keep schools secure, welcoming and conducive to learning.

Natural Surveillance

A person is less likely to do harm when someone is watching. Glazing in windows and doors increase transparency and visibility throughout the building, which improve everyday safety and supervision. This lessens the instances of bullying, which tend to occur in areas that are closed off from view, such as stairwells. Architects are incorporating glass – specifically, fire rated glass – in these stairwells to allow vision while still meeting code requirements. Having light and vision in these stairwells also encourage their everyday use, contributing to better health and wellness.

Exterior glazing also allows students and staff to have line of sight to the outdoor environment. If there are security or privacy concerns, these windows can be modified with reflective film or switchable glass. This allows light to still pass through and selectively block the attacker from seeing into the building.

Occupant Comfort

Incorporating vision with glass doesn’t have to mean sacrificing occupant comfort either. Today’s high performance glass products can help manage glare, UV transmission, draft or heat to ensure that students and staff can learn and work comfortably.

Sound or acoustics is another consideration, especially in schools. Whether its significantly reducing the noise from the outside environment or between classrooms and other indoor spaces, schools can use glass with high STC and OITC ratings in windows and doors to minimize the disruption caused by uncontrolled sound.

Impact Safety (Wired Glass)

Wired glass, though once a common choice for windows in schools due to its fire-resistant properties, has increasingly become a potential threat to safety. Its design, featuring embedded wire mesh, actually weakens the glass and pose significant life threatening injuries to those unfortunate enough to accidently impact it. When shattered, it breaks into large shards, exposing wire mesh can create sharp, jagged edges that can trap a victim’s limb. Because wired glass was widely used in schools, majority of these injuries happened to unsuspecting school children.

Thankfully, the 2003 version of the International Building Code (IBC) has banned the use unsafe wired glass in doors, sidelites and hazardous location in new school construction. However, with thousands of schools build prior to 2003, the wired glass danger still exists in numerous educational facilities across the United States. School administrators and facility managers can take a proactive approach and replace the existing wired glass with safe, affordable and USA-made alternative such as SuperClear 45-HS and SuperClear 45-HS-LI from SAFTI FIRST. These products are readily available and can be used in existing hollow metal framing.

To learn more about how schools can keep students safe and avoid potential liabilities, read this article or watch this video.

To learn more about SuperClear 45-HS and SuperClear 45-HS-LI by SAFTI FIRST, click here.

Fire Safety (Radiant Heat)

Clear, fire rated glass makes it possible to add light and vision to in areas fire rated areas that have typically used opaque materials such as sheetrock, gypsum or masonry. Today’s advanced fire rated glass products go beyond what unsafe wired glass or tinted, brittle ceramics can do.

These clear, USA-made products are more durable, affordable and can be used to add vision and maximum fire protection in critical areas such as exit corridors, stairwells, occupancy separations or lot lines. They can be used in fire rated doors, windows, storefronts, walls and even floors up to 2 hours.

There are two types of fire rated glass: fire protective and fire resistive. Fire protective glass contains the visual elements of a fire, which are flames and smoke. This glass type is typically rated up to 45 minutes and are subject to size limitations.

In addition to containing flames and smoke, fire resistive glass also effectively limits the transmission of dangerous radiant heat. This glass type is rated from 60 to 120 minutes are not subject to the size limitations imposed on fire protective glass.

If you’ve ever stood in from of a fire, you’ve experienced radiant heat first hard. In small doses, it can be warm and inviting. However, in large quantities, such as heat generated from a building fire, it can be deadly.

Radiant heat is invisible, extremely intense, electromagnetic waves that travel at the speed of light with little resistance from air. When these waves strike an object they are absorbed and their energy is converted to heat. If the object is a combustible material, such as paper, fabric, or wood, a fire will start when the material’s ignition temperature is reached. Radiant heat is extremely dangerous to building occupants since it can quickly reach a level that causes unbearable pain, followed rapidly by second degree burns, preventing safe egress.

By effectively limiting the transmission of radiant heat, fire resistive glass ensures safe egress is possible and that the spread of fire is contained, providing valuable time for evacuation procedures. The significance of providing protection against dangerous radiant heat in school settings cannot be overstated, as it directly contributes to the overall safety and well-being of those within these educational environments.

To learn more on why controlling radiant heat is necessary to fire safety, read this article or watch this video.

Active shooter

Glass safety is of paramount importance in the context of active shooters in schools. In the unfortunate event of an active shooter situation, having the right type of security glazing can be a crucial line of defense to protect students and staff. Properly designed and fortified windows and doors can deter or delay the attacker’s access, buying precious moments for lockdown procedures and law enforcement response.

The National Glass Association’s School Security document reports that from 1970 to 2021, there were:

  • 1550 incidents of school shooting, defined as shots fired on school property;
  • 163 active shooter events, defined as 4 or more people shot;
  • 729 deaths and 2076 injuries.

Active shooter events last an average of 8 minutes, and response times for first responders average 3 minutes.

During these horrific events, security glazing in windows and doors can be the first line of defense. They can be designed with forced entry resistance, bullet resistance, or both.

In 2022, the glass industry came together and published ASTM F3561, Standard Test Method for Forced-Entry-Resistance of Fenestration Systems After Simulated Active Shooter Attack. This new standard is designed to serve as the minimum accepted standard for security glazing in schools. When applied correctly, the windows and doors can significantly slow down the attacker during an active shooter event. This allows more time for schools to enact emergency plans and for first responders to arrive.

It is important to note that ASTM F3561 is an enhanced forced entry test – not a bullet resistance test. If bullet resistance is needed, glass tested to UL 752, Standard for Bullet Resisting Equipment, must be used.

This protective measure not only bolsters physical security but also provides peace of mind, allowing school communities to focus on education without the constant fear of violence. In the ongoing efforts to enhance school safety, glass protection remains a vital consideration.

Natural Disasters

Schools also perform a civic function in the community. They serve as polling places, host town hall meetings and become evacuation sites during natural disasters. Because of this, glass safety in schools is paramount when it comes to natural disasters like hurricanes, earthquakes, tornados, and more. Resilience and durability have to be built into a school’s design. Reinforced and impact-resistant windows and doors play a critical role in safeguarding the lives of students and faculty during these events.

Today, schools can take advantage of high performance windows and doors that protect against hurricanes, tornadoes or earthquakes. Such glass can withstand the powerful forces unleashed by nature, reducing the risk of shattered glass projectiles that could cause injuries or impede evacuation efforts.

Moreover, it maintains the integrity of the building structure itself, helping to mitigate damage and maintain a safe shelter for those inside. In regions prone to such disasters, investing in advanced glass safety measures ensures that schools remain resilient, protecting the well-being of their occupants and preserving the continuity of education in the face of adversity.

Solutions for Schools

This is where SAFTI FIRST comes in. SAFTI stands for Safety and Fire Technology Incorporated. We are the leading single-source, vertically integrated, USA-manufacturer of advanced fire rated glass and framing for over 40 years. Our fire rated windows, doors, walls and floors are installed in numerous projects across the US and all over the word.

Today, we’ve expanded our product offerings to include high performance glass products that can protect against bullets, forced entry, vandalism, blasts, hurricanes, and more. We offer energy performance, acoustic and decorative options as well. Our products are proudly USA-made at our state-of-the-art, fully automated manufacturing facilities in Merced, California, and comply with Buy America requirements – which can be an important consideration in publicly funded projects at the federal, state or local levels.

If you are ready to upgrade your school with the most innovative, readily available high performance glass products made in the USA, give us a call at 888.653.3333 and our representatives are ready to help you. You can also send an email to info@safti.com or visit us online at www.safti.com.

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