Opinion: Lawmakers Take Note: Protective Film on Glass Is Only as Good as the Installer

Without a license to help campuses know their glass film installer meets minimum standards, opportunistic, naïve, or fraudulent actors could install cheap, ineffective security film solutions.

Opinion: Lawmakers Take Note: Protective Film on Glass Is Only as Good as the Installer

Photo: Aquir, Adobe Stock

A survey in this magazine last year reported that campus officials rank glass to be the weakest of their defenses against intruders. Their concern echoes the final report on the 2012 Sandy Hook shooting, which recommended schools employ “forced entry resistance glazing materials for windows and glazed doors using laminated glass and/or polycarbonate.”

The Sandy Hook panel concluded that glass films, as described, can delay intruders with firearms long enough for law enforcement to respond to a threat. Depending on their cost and materials, these films range from making the underlying glass windows or doors shatterproof — resembling a car windshield — to virtually bullet proof.

Many schools have invested in glass film and state legislatures are considering requiring public schools apply film to their glass. These are sound ideas, but there are safety and legal issues to consider.

First, lawmakers need to understand a key fact about glass film: It is only as effective as the experience level of the person who installs it. Applying the film is not like putting a bumper sticker on a car. Installation is a complex process, which involves making precise measurements, spraying a wet solution, removing bubbles that can weaken the film, trimming excess material, applying a unique sealant, and patiently waiting for the film to set.

Inexperienced installers will make mistakes, weakening the film and making it easier for intruders to enter a campus building before police can arrive. That is why states should consider emulating California, a rare state that requires a license for contractors installing window films. According to digitalconstructive.com, a website for construction workers, the criteria for securing the state’s D-52 contractor’s license includes completing four years of “journey level” experience, getting a contractor to certify that experience, passing courses for blueprint reading, and other skills.

Without a license to help campus officials and other consumers know their glass film installer meets minimum standards, the market for glass film could experience a “race to the bottom,” with opportunistic, naïve or plain fraudulent actors leading the way to cheap, ineffective film installations.

The legal context around campus intrusions and efforts to prevent them is important to consider, too. It goes without saying that campus intrusions, from simple burglaries to disasters that get nationwide news coverage, present litigation risks to schools and other campuses. Public schools and universities may be protected from sovereign immunity enjoyed by the state, but creative plaintiffs’ lawyers have pushed legal theories to evolve with the times. Studies of litigation over mass shootings have revealed mixed results.

License requirements for window film installers could help schools if an intruder attempted a mass shooting. First, if installed correctly, the film could slow the intruder long enough for the police to disrupt the attack. And any suit would be hard pressed to blame the school for using a licensed contractor to install the protective window film. Conversely, if an intruder easily forced his way through a window that was poorly protected by window film installed by a contractor without a license, the school could find itself facing claims of presumptive negligence or even gross negligence. Similarly, manufacturers of window film could face exposure to legal liability if an intruder easily forced his way through a window that was poorly protected by the manufacturer’s window film installed by a contractor without a license.

A further consideration until licensing requirements are in place would be to make it mandatory that the film installing company being contracted is a member in good standing of the industry trade group the IWFA (International Window Film Association – https://iwfa.com/) that sets standards for the installation of field applied window films on glass.

Allen N. Bradley is a corporate attorney in Moye White’s Atlanta office representing clients in corporate and technology law matters, as well as in finance and private securities, negotiation of contracts concerning solar energy projects, corporate and partnership tax, executive and other non-qualified compensation, and wills, trusts and estate law. He can be reached at 404-961-9744 or at allen.bradley@moyewhite.com. What is written here is for general informational purposes only and should not be considered legal advice. If legal advice is needed, you should consult a lawyer.

Note: The views expressed by guest bloggers and contributors are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, Campus Safety.

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3 responses to “Opinion: Lawmakers Take Note: Protective Film on Glass Is Only as Good as the Installer”

  1. Kris Holcomb says:

    Meh… …. California doesn’t require any type of trade test for the contractor Lic. It’s just a business test to make sure CA gets their cut of the money. And 4 years of journeymen work is not even a thing….. instead of the state being the one over seeing security film. Maybe the film manufacturers should step up and know who is and how there product is being installed. In the end if it’s not installed correctly customers will move back to security gates hurting both manufacturers and legit installers. And manufacturers charging $2000 for a zoom call security film certification class makes money but isn’t the answer. Go to any AT&T in Southern California and you’ll see a contractor license also doesn’t magically fix the problem either. Plus manufacturers don’t care if you have contractors Lic or not. I “will call” at no less than 5 different manufacturers and contractor license are never checked and a very small minority of shops have the state required Lic, Bond, and GL. 🤷‍♂️

    “I’m a Ca licensed film installer with over 35 years of installation worldwide”

  2. Jim Elder says:

    I’ve been a security design consultant for 30 years. The problems associated with window film are pretty numerous and should be a last-choice solution; that being said, it does provide some delay. It’s the least expensive sure, but if you don’t have the right folks installing it, the material becomes even more problematic. Design is everything: correctly written specs and plans; minimum requirements for contractors AND their installing personnel, including training and certification on the products; approved submittals to include all products used for the installation; a robust inspection regimen, to include products “on the floor”, progress and final inspections; should be part of this process or…. hire an independent consultant or licensed architect. Would not use it on new installations because you will probably void the warranty by the glass manufacturer. Note also, that most of the film products will require replacement after around 10 years. Also, never use the term “bullet resistant” or “bulletproof”. This stuff is a delay mechanism only… a very important delay….

  3. Alan Meyer says:

    Quit using soooo much glass in these secure types of buildings!!!!! Move the glass above six feet for lighted areas.

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