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Protecting Windows against an Explosion

300 passengers were unaware that they were minutes away from drawing their final breathe as the overnight train rumbled ever closer to its Nova Scotia destination, Halifax in Canada."Hold up the train. Ammunition ship afire in harbour making for Pier 6 and will explode. Guess this will be my last message. Good-bye boys."
300 lives were saved, but Patrick Vincent (Vince) Coleman's message was a courageous act of self-sacrifice as the explosion ripped through the city.

Thousands of people stopped to watch the ship burning in the harbour, many from inside buildings, leaving them directly in the path of glass fragments from shattered windows. Roughly 5,900 eye injuries were reported, and 41 people lost their sight permanently.

The architect who had studied in Halifax finished her sad story. Earlier, she had been like a sponge absorbing my words carefully in order to protect artwork, staff and visitors in an important gallery in London.

In an ideal world windows will absorb the energy from a 2400 km/h blast wave without puncturing or fragmenting dangerously into the building. Hoping that it won't happen to you is not the answer. So let's take a look at the most professional and cost-effective approach to improving the resilience of windows.

Those who like to keep an audit trail of how they came to their investment decision will like this.

  1. Which areas of your building are most vulnerable? Do you have crowded areas that are in close proximity to unchecked vehicles or pedestrians?
  2. Can checks or access to these areas be stopped in order to increase the standoff distance of a potential blast. Every single metre counts. A 1kg TNT blast from close range can be 4 times worse than a 10kg blast from 10 metres away.
  3. What level of protection is required? What is your client's appetite or lack of appetite to risk and its consequences? Should the glass stay in the frames or is a scattering of fragmented glass within 3 metres of the window acceptable? Is this is a good result?
  4. A 'one size fits all' solution is often more expensive and ill-thought out. This is where investing a couple of days consultancy for a glazing audit and explosion modelling of protected and unprotected windows for each threat pays dividends.


Bomb blast window film, often referred to as anti-shatter film, varies between £25 to £200 per square metre installed. There is no point having an over-specified film in low risk areas when some critical areas are more vulnerable and lack adequate protection.

Our clients usually save money and have documentation demonstrating why how they came to implement the right solutions in the right places.

A recent client, a shopping centre, changed the layout of the car park in order to protect roof glazing from the risk of a Vehicle-Borne Improvised Explosive Device (VBIED). This was not an easy decision because losing car park spaces reduces the peak number of customers spending money in the shops. However, the results of modelling don't lie and just maybe it will prevent a disaster.

However, understanding the client's attitude to risk is key. Is it OK for glass fragments to enter the space, but no further than 3 metres? Is that a good result?

It is really common to see clients specify a single solution for their buildings, resulting in the solution being over-specified in some areas and not 'fit for purpose' in others.

Our clients usually save money by implementing the right solution in the right places. Yes, there is a couple of days consultancy, but they walk away with an audit trail of:

- the threats discussed

- a record of their glazing types

- the results of before and after modelling

- the recommended solutions

- pricing


Please get in touch on 0845 003 7260 if you wish to have a chat about bomb blast consultancy or window film.