Tuesday, August 23, 2005
Carmel on the Case: Window Film
Preparing for a hurricane has almost become a South Florida pastime. But if you thought your house was protected by putting a film over the windows - think again. In tonight's Carmel on the Case, investigative reporter Carmel Cafiero explains why thousands of homeowners should start feeling very vulnerable.
During the days after Hurricane Andrew, it was hard to believe so many people survived inside homes the storm blew apart. It was a lesson to all of us about the need for proper protection.
Frank and Barbara Morrison thought they were prepared after spending thousands of dollars on window film.
Homeowner Frank Morrison: "I went with the window film over the shutters because I don't really have room in my garage to store all of the aluminum panel shutters."
But what the Morrison's didn't know is that window film...All window film...Is not approved for residential hurricane protection in the state of Florida.
Frank Morrison: "They did leave me to believe that it definitely was very, very adequate hurricane protection."
Steve Sabac: "Window film in a residential application gives people a false sense of security."
Steve Sabac owns a company that installs window film for commercial properties only. The film works for commercial buildings because most contain window frames that are stronger, more expensive, and too heavy for residential use. To help us test what's being sold to homeowners, Sabac and his team applied window film of different thickness to three sliding glass doors...The kind you find in many homes. The doors were put to the same test developed by Miami-Dade and adopted by Broward County and the rest of the state. Each one must withstand a 9 pound 2 by 4 shot out of an air cannon at 34 miles per hour.
That sure didn't happen in the first test. The board shot right through the glass leaving a sizeable hole. So we tried thicker film for the next test. And again the board flies right though the glass. Watch in slow motion, the board doesn't even slow down as it passes through.
"That film is absolutely not suitable for use in our area."
As the owner of one of the county's certified testing facilities, Dr. Wakar Ali of Hurricane Engineering and Testing should know. Even the thickest film we tested couldn't make it past the approval process. Again the glass shatters but it doesn't stay there long. With the slightest bit of pressure, it falls right from the frame.
Dr. Wakar Ali: "During the hurricane you will have a completely open door. That's when the whole house becomes pressurized. The roof begins to lift. All the debris starts flying in. The water starts coming and. You bring the hurricane inside your house."
Herminio Gonzalez from Miami Dade County: "Wow - the 2 by 4 went right through it."
When we showed the video to Hermino Gonzalez, Director of Miami Dade's Code Compliance Office, he was surprised at how easily the boards crashed the glass. Gonzalez says homeowners should only buy approved hurricane protection products.
"And what window films have that approval? Presently, in Miami Dade County there is none."
It's not the kind of information the Morrison's got.
Frank Morrison: "And they say its good for bombs, tornadoes and hurricane protection too, to name a few."
And they're not alone. The International Window Film Association says it gets complaints every week.
Darrell Smith from International Window Film Association: "Safety and security window film will not stay in place during a full hurricane event."
Carmel Cafiero: "To make sure you buy something that does meet the standards for hurricane protection - look for Miami-Dade Product Approval. It's proof the product stood up to the tests and will stand up to the next storm that comes our way."
If you have a story for Carmel:
Call her in Dade at 305-627-CLUE
Or in Broward at 954-921-CLUE