Safety and Security: An Important Work In Progress
May 26, 2020
It’s hard to believe how much has changed between my last blog post and this one. Zoom happy hours, curbside pickups and virtual team meetings are now the norm. It seems every few weeks we’re adjusting and learning—and not just about how to cut hair and teach our kids math. We’re learning about what works, what doesn’t work and how to persevere in new ways. In my wife’s case, she has taken this time to go through every closet, every drawer, paint rooms, update pictures, resurface doors, etc. No matter what is helping you get through this season, hang in there. And as you do, please stay healthy and well.
While we’re on the topic of safety, I’m sure we can all agree that protecting those around us has likely never been more top of mind than it has been the last few months. At TGP, a subset of this focus has been on students. With early school closures, educational facility retrofits and renovations have been bumped up, bringing school safety back into the conversation in a real tangible way as we produce and fill orders.
Across the board, there’s no question we need to provide safe spaces for students to learn in. But since I’m a numbers guy, here are a few stats to drive this point home. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, there are over 132,000 K-12 schools in the U.S. and another 4,500-plus that grant post-secondary degrees. That is a whole lot of educational facilities, not to mention the students and faculty that fill them. It’s why the entire building team has a stake in getting the design build process right.
To give design professionals the tools they need to help create safer schools, many of the conversations in our industry have centered on fire-rated glazing. And, with good reason. Fire-rated glass plays a key role in slowing the spread of fire to allow for safe egress. It also makes it possible for design teams to fill a central building code requirement in schools without restricting daylight and views. I could go on—and not just because I work for a company that deals daily with fire-rated glazing. I truly believe it’s one of the unsung heroes of our industry. All its benefits aside, I’m sure you’ve noticed that security glazing has increasingly joined the dialogue around school safety.
Let me say upfront, I wish the subject of security in schools wasn’t one we had to broach. But the hard reality is that school shootings and tragedies remain a persistent threat. Experts in every related field have their opinions on what exactly is the driving force behind this contemporary phenomena. From social media to bullying, you name it, the cause has been discussed. Regardless of the why, we are left with the how. How are we protecting today’s students, staff and teachers? How are we raising the baseline of security?
As we’ve all worked to answer these questions, there’s been a lot of good to come out of the glazing industry, from increased awareness to new products like those that combine fire-resistance, forced entry and bullet-resistance all in one. Not to mention, all the task groups, school boards, manufacturers and security consultants who are working hard to put uniform policies and standards in place. But the bottom line is this segment is still in its infancy. Like anything in progress, there is learning along the way.
Take the school districts that are moving forward and adopting voluntary security standards. While some of these projects move forward without a hitch, in others, multifunctional security glazing products are value-engineered out due to cost. Then there are questions around when, where and how to spec these life safety and security glazing products. And, of course, there are the details to fine-tune. Have all aspects of multifunctional products been tested and approved so as not to negate each other? What products are they compatible with?
While it’s exciting to see the wheels in motion and progress on the horizon, these details and learning experiences often rear their head as challenges. They can make something as big picture as school safety and security seem like an insurmountable task. But it is necessary, and it is achievable. In fact, I think it’s a lesson we’ve all been learning these past few months: every step we take to protect others adds up and makes a difference. So stay the course. The work you are doing is making an impact.