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  • Writer's pictureDrew Neckar

A lesson in physical security of window openings from the attack on the US Capitol.

On January 6th , 2021 a crowd that had gathered in Washington DC to protest President Donald Trump's election loss to Joe Biden marched to the US Capitol building, broke through barriers established by the US Capitol Police, and forced their way into the building interrupting a joint session of Congress and causing significant property damage. With the caveat that I was not there and am not privy to the security measures in place at the Capitol other than what I observed during the news coverage I believe there are lessons to be learned from the incident.

While the effectiveness law enforcement response and preparation for the event are still being debated, from a physical security perspective there is at least one lesson we should take away from this.

The ability of the crowd to breach the Capitol's exterior and interior secured perimeters by breaking out windows enabled them access to the building, if they had been unable to breach the building secure exterior perimeter the damage and disruption caused would likely have been much less significant. Watching the protestors/rioters break out windows to initially gain access to the building, and to attempt to gain access to the hallway where federal LE ended up using lethal force it was apparent that the windows were either laminate glass or had been treated with a security film to prevent this from happening. The application of security film on existing windows or use of laminate glass for ground floor windows that may be susceptible to be broken to allow for forced entry is a best practice that I recommend for any building that may encounter a threat of forced entry either in situations of civil unrest or simple burglary and should have prevented those incursions and potentially prevented a woman's death and some property damage, but from what I could see the window security film was likely not installed properly.

While it did prevent the glass from shattering into multiple shards, it did not retain the window glass in their frames. Allowing those trying to break-in to push the entire window glass out of its frame and enter through the opening. When installing window security film it is important not just to apply it to the glass but to also use some method to tie the film to a reinforced window frame to ensure that this doesn't happen.

Unfortunately I see this fairly commonly and it almost completely negates the benefit of installing a protective film.

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