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For years the accepted best security practice in schools has been to secure all exterior doors and only buzz visitors in at the main entrance. This practice was in place at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, CT on December 14, 2012. Tragically, when a gunman found the doors locked, he shot out the glass and let himself in.
HARDENING SCHOOLS WITH BULLET RESISTANT GLASS
As communities and security committees have responded to this tragedy, many have advised ballistic reinforcement at the school entryway. In February the school security subcommittee of Connecticut’s Bipartisan Task Force on Gun Violence Prevention and Children’s Safety recommended bullet resistant glass, among other building-hardening enhancements, be added to these secure buzz-through vestibules. School districts throughout the country–from Council Rock, PA to Sioux City, IA–are publicly weighing the feasibility of adding this layer of additional security to their school buildings.
In their decades of experience enhancing the ballistic security of schools and community centers, Total Security Solutions has found that converting a school’s existing entry–which tend to have “air-lock” style double doors–to a secure reception area is very effective. This entails replacing all the glazing with bullet resistant glass held in place by UL-rated ballistic framing members. Opaque portions of doors and walls can be effectively reinforced with ballistically rated fiberglass. The interior set of doors is then outfitted with an electric strike or other remote locking system, so that staff can vet the credentials of any visitor before allowing him or her to enter.
BULLET RESISTANT GLASS ENTRYWAY COSTS
While such retrofitting jobs are fairly straightforward, the cost can add up. In addition to the expense of ballistic fiberglass and framing, bullet resistant glass is thicker and heavier than conventional glazing, and bullet proof doors often weigh several hundred pounds each. Hardware capable of coping with the added weight of a ballistic system–including hinges, door closers, and the emergency crash bars mandatory in public school buildings–tend to cost roughly twice as much as their non-ballistically rated counterparts.
All told, the cost of retrofitting an existing building’s glass entryway in order to convert it to a secure bullet resistant glass vestibule can run in the neighborhood of $30,000. While this could easily be incorporated into the construction costs for a new school–school construction projects often run into the tens of millions of dollars–finding the money to add a secure entryway to an existing facility can be challenging.
FUNDING THE INSTALLATION OF BULLET RESISTANT GLASS
Fortunately, there are options available to schools looking to add a bullet proof glass entryway. For example, structural security improvements are now eligible for many state construction grants. The federal government also makes funds available. For example, the Department of Homeland security annually offers roughly $800 million in grants to public schools, in addition to smaller programs earmarked to assist at-risk non-profit organizations in general, as well as those within especially sensitive urban cores. The National Threat Assessment Center has many online resources to help school administrators assess threats and establish emergency response protocols for all situations.