Invisible Protection for Schools

security window film installation

Protection from active shooter events has become a high priority for schools across the country. The focus on protecting students and staff has resulted in multiphased approaches ranging from threat assessment to “target hardening.”

School Shooting incidents by year

Center for Homeland Defense and Security: K12 School Shooting Database)

“Target hardening” is the process of making a school building a more difficult, or unattractive, target for violence and is one of the strategies schools have used in trying to reduce the amount of violence in schools. Target hardening strategies include building hardening, armed security on campus, keypad entries, metal detectors and safety and preparedness drills. While no one would expect that these hardening approaches could eliminate school violence, they are encouraged as one element in a comprehensive plan.[1] Studies have shown that many of these approaches … may also increase students’ fears and lower perceptions of safety. Implementing visible security measures, such as metal detectors and armed guards, may signal to students that school is a dangerous place.[2]



Another, more transparent, building hardening approach seeks to mitigate the weakest access points on a building’s exterior: windows, door lights, and entryway plate glass windows. Securing the building perimeter is a challenge when glass doors and windows are common in architectural design. For the many schools, churches and municipal buildings that haven’t installed bulletproof glass there is an opportunity to mitigate risk by installing a security film application to those windows. The industry-leading application is 3M’s Safety and Security Window Film Ultra S800, a multilayered, tear-resistant safety window film. This product, originally developed to deter “smash and grab” theft has been further developed to retard easy building entry for an active shooter in a public building.  Obviously, security film cannot stop a bullet, which will pass through the film. It will, however, prevent and slow unwanted entry by holding the broken glass in place. This allows the school additional time to allow security to respond and student safety protocols to be completed. The following YouTube video link ( is a compelling example of how the window film system will work in the field. Frustrating and delaying an active shooter attempting to gain entry will help save lives by giving teachers, students and staff time to enact their emergency plans and also allow law enforcement to arrive earlier in the situation.



A recent case study focused on the Jewish Federation Schools in Cincinnati, OH. A retired FBI agent was hired to become their Director of Community Security. One of his focal points was to improve the security strategy at the Jewish schools in Cincinnati, which are vulnerable to the same type of “active shooter” incidents that have touched schools throughout the nation.



“Glass is the weakest entry point on most building exteriors,” he explained. “We have locks on the glass doors, but what value were the locks actually providing if the glass could be simply shot out during an active shooter event?” He ordered and oversaw the installation of —3M™ Scotchshield™ Safety & Security Window Film Ultra S800 and 3M™ Impact Protection Profile Attachment System.



“The cost of impact-resistant windows was prohibitively expensive, but the 3M Ultra S800 Window Film and attachment system gives us another layer of protection,” he said, following the successful installation.[3]



The film is applied to the inside of the window and then augmented by 3M Impact Protection Adhesive. The adhesive is applied around the frame in a 3/8” to 1/2” bead to bond the glass, window film and frame together. It significantly improves protection against would-be intruders, severe weather damage or bomb blasts. 3M’s adhesive has greater tear strength and elongation and tensile strength than commonly used attachment adhesives. The film is transparent and passive (it does not need to be “turned on”.) In many cases there is an up-sell opportunity to design and install a branded window perforation on the outside of the window for additional privacy. The window perforation will hide the activity on the inside of the building to an outsider but will not diminish the view of the students inside. A good security system can be put in place that can frustrate a malevolent actor, be transparent to the students inside and encourage school pride.



Target hardening is an important part of every safety plan and will need to include mitigation against the weakest part of the target. This point is always the easy access windows on the lower floors of the building. While bulletproof glass is the best and most comprehensive protection, it is also expensive and difficult to retrofit in existing frames. The 3M Window Security Film solution can be installed at about one-sixth the cost of bulletproof glass. There are federal funds available to schools for safety measures.




[2] Ibid


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