Precautionary measures: Phase VIII blast leaves a more ‘secure’ DHA

Schools and residences in the area have placed security films over their windows.


Rabia Ali December 27, 2011

KARACHI:


Whatever doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger, or that’s what it seems like for houses and schools in DHA.


After the phase VIII blast that shattered windows of residences and schools in the area, people have realised that their alarm systems and security guards are not enough and some protection is necessary for their windows too.

“Our school was a mess. There was broken glass everywhere. There could have been severe injuries if students were in school at that time,” said Marium Shera, principal of the Froebel’s Education System, which is located near the site of the September 19 blast, CID official Chaudhry Aslam’s house.

Froebel’s, like many other schools and residences, is better protected now. In case another explosion occurs, Shera says her students would be saved from the shards because of the new security films to guard the windows.  The films protect windows from shattering in case of an explosion.

What is a security film?

Safety and security films were introduced in the country in the early 2000s and are said to be shielding banks, police headquarters and residences of VVIPs, manufacturers say.

But it was after the DHA blast that residences and schools decided to use them. “People were not expecting that there could be a blast in DHA. The scale of the damage because of broken windows left everyone shocked,” said Zeeshan Khalid, sales manager of a company 3M which produces the films.

While showing the thin film over his window, Khalid said it was made of micro-thin polyester, the thickness of which ranges from 100 microns to 175 microns.

It can be applied on all windows as the adhesive film holds the glass in case of accidental breakage, blasts or natural calamities.

Khalid says the film meets the international standard CPSC-16, cfr category II, needed to protect windows from bomb attacks, further adding that hotels such as Sheraton and clubs like Karachi Club use the films, which is why they were not damaged when the blast at the CID office occurred last November.

Do films provide sufficient protection? 

Security analyst Ikram Sehgal says that while the films cannot provide 100 percent protection, it can provide some safety. “Glass shards cut people like knives. At least the films can protect people from that.”

Sehgal adds that in foreign countries, such as the US, all large structures have security films over their windows.

But Naveed Khan, who heads AfterShock, a crisis and emergency management company, does not agree. He says that films provide little protection from glass breakage, and are not strong enough to withstand an explosion in proximity.

He adds that safety films which were installed at the C.A.S. school’s senior section were not able to protect the school.  “The films did not provide any safety. The explosion was so strong that it even damaged the metallic grilles on windows,” he claims, adding that they can only work if located blocks away from the site.

The school has now opted for shatterproof glass which breaks into rounded grains instead of jagged shards, he added. But everyone can’t afford it. Khalid claims that most houses use up to 1,000 square feet of glass, which could cost around Rs60,000 if shatterproof glass is used.

Shera says that shielding their windows has been expensive, but half of the cost was paid by the parents.

Not everyone agrees with taking such precautions though. Shahzad Dadabhoy, the next-door neighbour of the CID official, whose house was reduced to rubble in the blast, says he will not use the films in his house. “Safety should be provided in a manner which is affordable for all. What is the use of making such films when the general public cannot afford it?”

Published in The Express Tribune, December 28th, 2011.

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