When a tornado struck New Iberia, La. in December 2022 one of the many damaged buildings was the Iberia Medical Center. Numerous windows were blown out, projecting dangerous glass shards into the hospital. Amazingly, only five people were injured at the hospital, none of them seriously.
The event was yet another reminder of how foul weather events can dramatically impact hospitals, its patients and employees.
In 2018 Hurricane Michael, a rare Category 5 storm that struck Florida’s panhandle, damaged nine hospitals so badly they were forced to close. Damage to the buildings included destroyed roofs, buckled walls and shattered windows.
On May 22, 2011, five people died and many were injured at St. John’s Hospital in Joplin, Mo., when a vicious tornado struck the town. Flying glass was the main cause of a number of the injuries at the hospital.
Considering the enormous importance of always safe and functioning health care facilities are to communities, hospitals increasingly are looking for ways to make their buildings safer for their patients and employees. Among the considerations is installing security window film on all the windows. The film holds the glass in place, keeping it from shattering and sending shards of glass flying through the building, causing serious injuries.
After a series of hurricanes struck Florida’s east and west coasts in the early 2000s, the University of Florida & Shands Medical Center in Jacksonville installed 10,000 square feet of fragment retention film on 395 windows. The hospital is a critical care center making it difficult to move its patients should a weather disaster strike.
Also, hospitals are beginning to secure their windows as part of an overall security plan for a possible domestic terrorist attack since health care facilities are particularly vulnerable. Security window films have been proven to hold glass in place under the most extreme bomb blast.
Here are four facts related to foul weather events and armed attacks on hospitals:
- Flying glass shards from shattered windows are the No. 1 cause of serious injury when a building is struck by a powerful storm or bomb attack. Yet the majority of the country’s hospitals have little or no window protection.
- Hospitals can’t afford the potential repercussions of an unforeseen weather event or terrorist attack that could cause havoc and tragedy. Their role in their community is too vital.
- Hospital patients generally are immobile and thus significantly at risk should the building’s windows shatter.
- Many hospitals have large amounts of exposed glass related to their design.
Unfortunately, despite the increase in lethal storms across the country, few hospitals have acted to protect their windows against tornadoes, hurricanes or terrorist attack by installing shatter resistant window films. Yet for years the federal government, commercial building owners, school districts, museums and galleries, convention centers and airports have been aggressively protecting their windows through the installation of these solar control and security window films.
There’s another reason for installing window film on hospital buildings: Some films have the benefit of conserving energy by controlling the amount of sun that enters the building. These are often referred to as solar control films. The payback value on these films can often eventually cover the cost of the film.
As we prepare for a potentially lethal storm season in 2023, the question is when are hospitals and health care facilities going to begin securing their windows or conserving energy by installing solar control and security window films?
The best way for hospitals to proceed is to contact an experienced, certified security and solar window film installer to ensure the correct window film is chosen and properly installed.