Preventing Collateral Damage & Mitigating Terrorist Risks

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An interview with Ian Penfold, chairman of The Glass & Glazing Federation Film Group.

These days, businesses need to be as careful and as cautious as possible when it comes to protecting their company and their members of staff, especially those brands that work in large cities that could potentially become the target of a terrorist attack in the future.

This is the sad reality of the world we live in and the news is full of radicals making good on terrorist threats. And all too often, it’s innocent people that are caught in the crossfire who come off worst, which is why it’s so important for businesses to look after their own and do all they can to make their systems and operations robust enough to withstand potential threats.

We here at Solartek have seen a rise in interest in products like bomb blast window film from business owners and individuals eager to mitigate these risks, but there are still many out there who have yet to come across such goods and services, and are yet to realise just how beneficial they could be if the worst does happen.

We’ve taken the time to sit down and have a chat with Ian Penfold, chairman of The Glass & Glazing Federation Film Group and architectural sales manager for manufacturer Solargard, to find out more about this type of film and how you could benefit from installing it on your windows at a time when governments around the world are on the highest of alerts.


Solartek (S): How long has bomb blast window film been about?

Ian Penfold (IP): I prefer to talk about film for explosion mitigation as the film is used to protect not only terrorist incidents but also industrial accidents. Window films used to protect against the effect of an explosion (Home Office data claims that 90 per cent of both injuries and damage are caused by flying glass) have been in the UK for around 40 years. The unfortunate terrorism events of the 1970s and 80s made the use of window film the first line of defence for many organisations.

S: What kind of businesses use it?

IP: There is no demarcation for who should use it. It is appropriate cost-effective protection for anyone who has glass windows. The need for protection really comes from a pragmatic view on risk. This depends on geographical location, organisation type, existing glazing type, stand-off distances and a host of other factors. Many people forget the need for business continuity and if an office has been destroyed because of flying glass damage, it could be months before it is possible to reuse that space.

S: What benefits does it have?

IP: The installation of the correct window film reduces the damaging effects of flying glass. Based on standard testing (either government standards or ISO testing) rather than small sharp pieces of glass flying through the air at very high speed, the glass can be either completely contained within the window frame or at worst falls close to the window opening, creating a very low risk environment.

S: How does it work?

IP: The films works by increasing the strength and elasticity of the glazing and works hand in hand with the adhesive system that holds broken shards together.

S: What’s it made of?

IP: The base material for window film is polyester. This is used because of its strength, elasticity, resistance to temperature and clarity.

S: Is it specifically tailored to protect against any sort of bomb?

IP: The effects of any type of explosion can be mitigated by using the correct specification of window film.

S: What’s the lifespan of the product? How often will it need replacing?

IP: Currently films have a warranty of 12 years and have an expected lifetime of 15 to 20 years before they require replacement. Existing film can be tested to check its current effectiveness.

S: Does it affect the visibility of the glass?

IP: The standard films are virtually undetectable.

S: Is it custom-built for each individual business? What’s the typical wait time on product delivery?

IP: No, the specific building advice is ‘custom- built’ but the products are standard. Products can normally be delivered next day.

S: Is it environmentally friendly?

IP: The films for explosion mitigation are also available in solar control grades which improve building comfort and can dramatically reduce energy usage. These films are very environmentally friendly by saving the energy required for its own lifecycle within a year!

S: How useful is it actually during a terrorist attack or similar sort of incident?

IP: Protection against a terrorist attack requires a multi-faceted approach. There is no doubt, however, that to protect building occupants it is a ‘no-brainer’ to install window film if there is a possibility of an incident within 800m of a building unless the glazing is purpose built for protection already.

Apart from explosions, the use of film can also assist protection levels in the growing trend for lone or multiple gunmen. In a building, the glass is usually the weakest link and access to a building can be achieved by simply breaking it. Again, the correctly specified window film installation can at least delay entry if not prevent it, giving time for other protection measures to be implemented.

S: What’s the threat level to businesses like at the moment? Do you anticipate an increasing number of companies using this film?

IP: The security risk for the UK government is at its highest levels of alert. The issue with an explosion is although there is a ‘target’ there is a large area of collateral damage that is indiscriminate. There will be an increasing number of organisations using the film as soon as the awareness of this simple, cost effective (with additional money saving and energy and comfort benefits) is raised back to levels of previous times.

S: Do you think businesses are being paranoid or is it best to be prepared no matter what?

IP: This sort of protection is certainly not about being paranoid. The risk level for an incident is at an all-time high and the difference with the current format is that there is no warning so being prepared is the best defence.

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