We’ve all seen cartoons where an opera singer hits a high note as everyone raises their eyebrows, and a glass that someone is holding shatters because of the powerful noise.
But, as a sonic boom caused by a meteorite shattered more than a million square feet of window glass in Russia on Feb 15, 2013, some of us might be thinking, “Could this type of thing happen to my windows?”
Hopefully, meteorites aren’t becoming more common, but man-made sonic booms, earthquakes, and other types of explosions have also been a factor in windows shattering. It all depends on the type of shock waves the event creates and a bit of bad luck. For example, living near an air force base could put you at a slightly greater risk. Even though pilots are required to follow guidelines to protect civilians from damage, a sonic boom will occur anytime an aircraft reaches the speed of sound, about 767 MPH.
The bad news is that when strong shock waves are created by something like a meteorite exploding, there is little you can do to stop your windows from shattering. Nor is there any way to predict that it is coming and protect yourself if you are near a window. The good news is, however, that some forms of glass are less prone to causing injury than others.
So which windows are the most shatterproof? Windows with special protective film coatings are designed to prevent or minimize glass pieces flying and causing injury. Also, safety glass that has been tempered (like the windshield on your car) is treated so that glass breaks into pellets instead of larger, sharper wedges. In fact, construction code requires large windows that rest close to the floor to be made of tempered glass for extra safety. Chances are that single-pane, poorly installed windows that already rattle in the wind would be the first to go.
While I don’t know of any meteorite-resistant windows for homes, my best advice would be to choose ones that provide the most safety features for the rare, catastrophic events that would cause them to break (like meteor showers). That way you know that you’ve done all you can to prevent or at least minimize any damage that would occur, which should certainly help you sleep better at night.