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How to Break a Window in an Emergency

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Infographic: How to Break a Window

When you think of breaking glass and entering/exiting a house or a car, you probably immediately think of this as a criminal act.

In truth, there are many reasons a window would need to be broken in case of emergencies. Knowing how to do this quickly and safely could prove vital.

There are tools you can use to break glass, discreetly if the situation warrants, to save yourself or even the ones you love. Here are a few ways to break a window, and the ways you can repair it afterwards.

Emergency Situations

You might be wondering, what emergency situations could possibly happen that would require you to break glass? There are several, and in this article we'll focus on car windows and home windows. Even if the likelihood of you getting into these situations is low, it's important to be prepared. You just never know if you can help yourself or someone else.

The Sun setting with clouds surrounding it

Locked in a Hot Car

You may feel this if you are sitting inside your car on a hot day: when the windows are closed, heat is not easily transferred through the glass. This is both an advantage and a disadvantage. Heat is kept out of the car, but it also keeps it in. This is great for cold days with the heater on, but slightly dangerous in hot temperatures if the windows are sealed.

Imagine leaving a child inside a car on days where the temperature climbs into the 90s or 100° F. This, sadly, is a situation that happens with fatal consequences about 39 times every year since 1996, according to Consumer Reports.

It may seem presumptuous to watch for other people’s children inside of their cars, but you never know when it might actually be a lethal situation. This is especially true for infants in car seats left alone. On hot days, keeping an eye out can save a young life.

Some state laws allow passers-by who believe a a child or pet in a hot vehicle is in “imminent danger” of suffering injury or death can break a window to get them out, after contacting police. Be sure to check the law in your state for details.

Emergency personnel respond to a vehicle fire.

Car Accident with Added Danger (Fire/Explosion/Etc)

If you are in a car accident or come onto the scene of a car accident, one thing to think about is if the people need to exit the vehicles. If they are injured but not in added danger, then waiting for emergency personnel is usually the best option.

However, there are times when after a car accident, there is added danger that could mean the difference between life or death if you don't exit the vehicle. Examples of this are when the car is on fire or in danger of explosion, if the accident happened in a high traffic area and more cars could crash, if someone person is in need of immediate medial attention, etc.

In those cases, if you're not able to open the door or window, then breaking a window may be necessary.

Truck driving through flood waters.

Trapped in a Submerged Vehicle

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, an average of 384 people in the U.S. die annually in submerged cars. This might happen for a number of reasons, such as a car accident or medical emergency resulting in going off the road into a body of water, or driving through a flooded area and getting swept up in the water.

Whatever the case, it's important to know how to break a car window in case you're trapped in a submerged vehicle and need to exit quickly.

What makes this type of emergency more dire is the water itself. When a car is submerged, the water pressure makes opening the window nearly impossible. Plus, most cars these days have power windows, which fail when underwater.

Burglar with hoody in middle of the day sneaking out of a house with his hood up.

Threat of Violence at Home

Criminals can break a window of your home in order to gain access, which is why Cove recommends people have a Window Sensor and/or a Glass Break Sensor.

But what if you need to escape through a home window in an emergency?

If you are in immediate danger from someone that would harm you, if you're not able to quickly open a window to escape, then breaking the glass may be your best option. There are ways that we will talk about later in this article about methods of breaking through a broken window in a safe and quiet way.

A fire fighter uses a water hose to battle a house fire.

House Fire

Breaking through a window in a dangerous home fire is certainly a reason you will want to escape your home (or help others escape), especially if you discover that the window pane cannot slide open or open at all.

Law enforcement and firefighters know how to break through windows to save victims, but it is important to know for yourself how to get through. Take care when escaping a fire through a window: the added oxygen from the outside can make the fire flare even hotter. Make sure a door is closed from the fire before you escape through the window frame.

When creating a safety plan for your home or apartment, it is important that you know of two ways to enter every room in order to escape danger. Then, after escape, it is important to have a meeting location so you know that every member of your family is safe.

Broken Window. Outside can be seen a line of apartments, some trees, and the blue sky with a few clouds in it.

Safety Precautions When Breaking Glass

Before we discuss tools and methods of breaking windows, it's important to talk about safety. Sharp glass is dangerous and can cause serious injury, so approach it carefully in any situation.

Know the Type of Glass

There are many types of glass, and each one will break differently. Become familiar with different types of glass so you know how they will respond in different situations.

Wear Protective Gear

In an emergency situation, you may be limited on time or resources to help you be as safe as possible. If you are able, wear protective gear when you break glass. This can include safey goggles and gloves, but could also be make-shift protective coverings like blankets, pillows, jackets, hot pads, socks, sunglasses, reading glasses, mask, etc.

Avoid Breaking Windows Close to Pets or Kids

This is probably obvious to most people, but it bears repetition. When breaking glass, make sure the area is clear, especially of pets or kids. They may not realize what you are doing and rush over to see. Instruct them to stay back for safety and to avoid the glass as much as possible.

Yellow house with a window including teal shutters, white blinds, and a potted flower.

How to Break a Home Window or Car Window

In general, windows can be hard to break. This is by design. You don't want home windows or car windows to randomly break.

Home windows are meant to withstand the elements and help keep the interior temperature as steady as possible. It is important to note that modern home windows are double-glazed. This means that the glass is surrounded on both sides by a transparent that keeps the window from complete disintegration. It also means that added force is required to penetrate the plastic of the window in order to get through.

For cars, most are made of tempered glass. Annealing forces the glass into a very hardened but surprisingly fragile state. That's so when broken, instead of completely shattering and creating very jagged edges, tempered glass breaks into smaller and more rounded edges that create cracks instead of complete disintegration should the glass break. This makes tempered glass safer to break through in emergencies.

Getting through broken glass in a safe manner is very important, and getting through glass quietly and quickly can be even more important in a life-or-death situation. If you are able, protect yourself as much as possible when breaking glass, with gloves, goggles, or any other protective element to keep your skin and eyes safe.

Here are a few tools you can use to get through most tempered or double-glazed windows and how to use them.

  • Safety Hammer. For just fifteen dollars, this escape tool is a wonder for getting out of a car in an emergency. The ingenious safety emergency hammer is designed with a hardened steel tip that actually shatters tempered glass with a hard enough strike. This can be used on the side window as well as the back or front windshield. Better yet, it comes with a seat belt cutter to extract yourself if you cannot normally undo your buckle.

  • Car Headrest. Interestingly, this “tool” is already in your car and works in a pinch. The metal prongs that secure your headrest to the car seat are great at getting through tempered glass with enough force.

  • Hammer and Thick Blanket. It may seem too simple, but muffling the sound of breaking through a window can be as important as escaping through the window itself. Simply hammer the glass through the padded surface, and it will not only give you the silence you need, but it will also protect you from sharp glass that would fly with a regular hammer strike.

  • Duct Tape. While breaking through a window, you do not want the glass of the window to injure you or your dog or child inside the car. By covering the glass with duct tape, you will ensure that the broken glass sticks to the tape instead of shattering all over the interior and exterior of your car.

  • Spark Plug. Yes, a spark plug! If you have a child trapped in your car or truck, having a spark plug on hand is perfect. The ceramic of the spark plug when hit with a hammer or other blunt object can pierce and even shatter tempered glass.

  • Automatic Steel Punch. These tools can be picked up at any hardware store. Meant to punch holes in metal, these spring-loaded strikers can break through glass easily, especially when striking car glass at an angle along the bottom or side edge.

Broken car windshield with glass folding down.

How Much Force Does It Take To Break A Window?

Most car windows are made with tempured glass. Through the annealing process of hardening tempered glass, the force required to break the window is much more than breaking a normal pane. Depending on the manufacturer, the force required to break tempered glass ranges from 20,000 to 24,000 PSI (or pounds per square inch). This sounds like a lot, and it certainly is: there’s a reason tempered safety glass is used on modern car windows.

How much force does it take to break a house window? Depending on the manufacturer, the force required to break tempered glass ranges from 20,000 to 24,000 PSI (or pounds per square inch).

Breaking glass is quite dangerous, as the shards of glass and the entering or exiting through the window frame can easily cut and slice through skin. This is why it is vitally important to perform these actions with care.

How To Break A Window Quietly

If you're in a home invasion situation and need to break a window to escape, you'll probably want to do so as quietly as possible.

Of the above methods, the hammer and thick blanket, duct tape, spark plug, and automatic steel punch options should be the quiestest. Many times, when actually breaking the glass, these methods are quiet--it's the dropping of the broken glass that's loud. So if you can, have the glass drop onto a soft surface like a pillow, to keep it from hitting the floor loudly.

If you have a pocket knife handy, you can also break a small portion of a window quietly, which helps if you need to access the lock.

How to Break Safety/Security Glass

There are several types of safety glass, including toughened glass, laminated glass, wire mesh glass, and plexi-glass. Breaking these isn't always easy, but definitely possible. The nice thing is, the way they are designed to break makes them safer to deal with.

How to Break Tempered Glass

Tempered glass is what you usually find in a home or business. It has two pieces of glass with a spacer in between, which creates "dead air space" that insulates it. When it breaks, it breaks into smaller pieces, making it safer. You can break it with a hammer, a sparkplug, a steel punch, etc.

How to Break Laminated Glass

Laminated glass is a type of safety glass that has multiple layers laminated together. It is commonly used in cars, store front windows and doors, bullet-proof glasses, hurricane resistant glass, etc. You can break it with a hammer, a sparkplug, a steel punch, etc.

Window made up of small square glass panes. A teapot in front of it and in the middle. Two potted flower plants on each side.

Repairing a Window

You have successfully saved yourself and your family from danger by breaking through your car or home windows. Now how much will it cost to get the window replaced?

You may be familiar with windshield repair, especially if you have ever been struck by a flying rock while driving on the freeway. But do you know how much it costs to repair a side window, or a double-glazed home window? Here is some information about how to go through the process.

A broken windshield of a car that needs to be repaired.

How to Repair Car Windows

Rear and front windshields are fairly straightforward, even if you have to purchase your windshield through your car’s manufacturer because of special wiring or features like window heating. Most auto repair shops can order and install these windows, especially if they are known for glass repair.

The difficult replacement are the side windows. The first consideration is whether they are manual or power windows. Manual windows, such as those with a side crank, do not cost much and can save you quite a bit on labor costs.

Power windows, on the other hand, are much more complicated depending on the features of your vehicle. Mechanics have to take power locks in the door, additional wiring, relays, and the window regulator into account. The labor costs will be your primary cost, as the narrow installation space present in most modern cars means additional time in the replacement.

Looking through a home window with a lamp inside and flowers and a mountain outside.

How to Repair Home Windows

If you have ever had windows installed into your home, you may be familiar with time and pricing. If not, there are several aspects of the replacement to consider, especially when it comes to estimating the final cost with the contractor you hire.

The first is air leaking and temperature control. Modern energy-efficient windows are designed to keep heat and cold from entering homes, meaning you will pay less on heating and cooling bills. If the window is completely shattered, more than just the window will have to be repaired. This includes any frame or sealing damage, which may have to be replaced along with the glass.

Fortunately, if you have a warranty on the glass or homeowners insurance, your glass windows may actually be free to repair. This is especially true if broken because of fire, as almost all insurance covers fire damage.

Most insurance also covers vandalism and theft, and you would be hard-pressed to find an insurance that wouldn’t cover escaping through a window to escape physical harm from an assailant. If you have any doubts about what your insurance will cover, always give them a call or ask while signing up.

Keeping Your Home Safe

Once your home window is repaired, look into getting a Cove home security system, including a Window Sensor for each ground-floor window, and a Glass Break Detector. That way, it'll deter criminals from entering your home and alert you and authorities as a break-in is in progress.

The Cove system is economical and easy to install. Plus, we have a 60-day, money-back guarantee. The cost of a system with professional monitoring will give you peace of mind and hopefully keep any more windows from having to be broken.

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