There is really no need for an ongoing debate about the use of safety/security window films versus the use of storm shutters.
Storms shutters are made to protect windows, which are part of the structure of a building. Properly manufactured storm shutters, from reputable manufacturers, which have been properly installed on a building using the right types of materials and mounting accessories offer a high degree of protection against glass breakage under almost all circumstances when visibility through the window is not required or desired. In fact, many shutters made and utilized as outlined above actually meet the highest windborne debris impact resistance as is specified in the “Dade County Standard”. Improperly manufactured or installed shutters may actually become large projectiles during a major window event, such as a hurricane.
Three things must be noted here, however. First, the “Dade County Standard” is part of a structural building code. It applies to new construction primarily and to retrofit construction only under certain circumstances, such as a major remodeling of a building. It is not a personal safety standard and was never initiatedas such, as many homeowners might mistakenly believe, especially due to the wording of certain advertisements. The purpose of the code is to prevent the occurrence of certain size openings in the windows and doors of a building to prevent the pressure differentials from blowing the roof off the house, which would then allow the walls to collapse. In other words, the purpose of this code is to prevent the collapse of the building in a catastrophic hurricane event, and not specifically to protect the occupants of the building, who would already have been notified to vacate the area. Secondly, shutter systems are an “active” system. They work only when someone takes steps to put them into use. The operator of the shutter system must not only be present but must also accurately determine the amount of advance timing needed to activate the protection. Third, it is more likely that there will be occupants in a house during glass breakage events that are less catastrophic than a major hurricane event. Many more homes and buildings are located in non-direct path areas; many more storms with winds less than are found in a catastrophic hurricane occur in all areas of Florida than just in direct coastal south Florida; and there are many other causes and instances of glass breakage which can occur that are not windstorm related.
Safety/security films, on the other hand, work when glass is broken by holding shards and fragments together, rather than allowing them to become projectiles striking persons and objects inside a building. One direct benefit is to reduce the probability and/or severity of injury to persons who might otherwise have been injured or killed as a result of flying glass fragments. Another possible benefit is to reduce the probability or severity of injury from human impact, that is, when a person inside the house accidentally breaks a window by direct contact such as would occur from a fall into a glass panel. In a spontaneous wind burst, as might occur during a severe thunderstorm when wind speeds could be in the 40-90 mph range, much glass breakage from flying debris can still occur. In these listed incidents, properly manufactured and installed safety/security window films offer as much or better potential protection than shutters since: (1) the film is a passive system and needs no anticipation of these events for an operator to activate it, such as would be needed with a shutter system; (2) visibility of the situation outside is maintained; and (3) potential property damage due to continuing rain and windborne debris continues to be lessened
To put it very simply, shutter systems that meet the Dade County Standard are intended to help prevent structural collapse so a building could be re-occupied more quickly after a major wind event. The use of safety/security films improves life safety issues and reduces the potential for property damage in less than catastrophic glass breakage events. In an existing home, the consumer need only to decide what they are trying to protect. Both technologies might be needed if both structural integrity of the building and life safety are desired in all circumstances.