ORLANDO, Fla. – An awareness campaign launched this week during the National Hurricane Conference in Orlando, Florida, advises people to stop putting tape on their windows and glass doors in preparation for a tropical cyclone.
Go Tapeless is an initiative of the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes – better known as FLASH – whose president and Chief Executive Officer Leslie Chapman-Henderson said she got the idea for the campaign last year when she saw how many people along the United States’ east coast put tape on their windows in advance of Hurricane Irene.
“It’s a very serious issue,” Mrs. Chapman-Henderson told conference attendees on Tuesday morning. “The first death from [Hurricane] Charlie [in 2004] came from someone standing behind a sliding glass door with solar film.”
The myth suggests that putting masking tape, duct tape or a sheet film on a window or glass doors will make it safer if it breaks by reducing shatter. The myth also suggests that clean-up would be easier if the window were to break. The truth is much different. Tape doesn’t make windows any stronger and actually is more dangerous because if glass that has solar film or tape on it breaks, the shards of glass will be larger.
“And more deadly,” Mrs. Chapman-Henderson said.
FLASH maintains that using tape has no positive effect on cleanup should a taped window break. If the window doesn’t break, it is difficult to remove and clean the adhesive left on the window, the programme contends.
In addition, in advance of a tropical cyclone, taping a window wastes valuable money and time that could be better spent elsewhere.
Mrs. Chapman-Henderson said many people are surprised to learn about the dangers of using masking tape on windows.
“Many people living in hurricane zones still think it is a good idea,” she said. A survey conducted by FLASH in January showed two-thirds of those polled still thought a home’s windows should be taped in preparation for a hurricane.
Some people think putting something on their windows is better than nothing, but Mrs. Chapman-Henderson said that is not the case with masking tape. She said some films placed on a commercial window might be sufficient, but many window film products will not do what they say they will.
As a result, film and tape give people a false sense of safety, she said.
Former National Hurricane Director Max Mayfield said the National Hurricane Center was partially to blame for creating the myth about taping windows because up until the late 1970s, window taping was still on the National Hurricane Center’s checklist of things to do in preparation for a hurricane.
National Hurricane Director Bill Read acknowledged that taping windows was still an issue even though the centre stopped suggesting people use tape more than 30 years ago.
“It’s not just a national thing,” he said, noting that people in many Caribbean countries still use the practice of using masking tape on windows before a hurricane.
“Our goal is to break this myth,” he said. “It doesn’t protect your windows and at best it’s an inconvenience. At worst, some people will think they’re safe.”
Speaking during the general session on Tuesday, US Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Craig Fugate said taping was a learned behaviour and the goal was to get people to unlearn it.
“We have to figure out why people are doing it in the first place and why we can’t get them to evacuate the same way they’ll put tape on the windows,” he said.