When Cameron Gunn came to Miami, he experienced two hurricanes in two weeks, says Leticia Dellatore, executive vice president of sales for Shield Technology Group. “He saw people hang cumbersome panels over their windows and thought, ‘There has to be a better way.'”

In 2001, Gunn patented the company's ImpactShield, following a trend for polymer-based panels that protect windows during hurricanes. Currently available in 14 standard sizes, ImpactShield installation takes 30 to 45 minutes per window. Brackets hold the housing from which the material quickly rolls down to lock in position before a storm.

Products such as Impact Shield and Armor Screen aim to protect windows from breakage during debris-hurling storms. “The screens work like a trampoline,” says Chris Henry, Armor Screen operations director. “There's a small gap between the screen and the window, so when debris hits the screen, it has room to flex and absorb that impact.”

Easier to deploy than shutters or boards, fabric panels store more easily and allow some light into the home. Boards and shutters also can inadvertantly trap homeowners inside if evacuation becomes necessary, while fabric products eliminate such obstacles.
Easier to deploy than shutters or boards, fabric panels store more easily and allow some light into the home. Boards and shutters also can inadvertantly trap homeowners inside if evacuation becomes necessary, while fabric products eliminate such obstacles.

The panels do more than lessen widow damage. “We're trying to prevent rapid internal pressurization,” says Greg Galloway, business manager for storm protection products at Wayne-Dalton. “During a hurricane, pressure inside the house is lower than outside. In a dramatic pressure change, such as when a window breaks, the rush of pressure can blow out other windows or lift the roof off.” Wayne-Dalton's Fabric Shield guards against such catastrophe. Galloway says cracks and small holes can still occur, but they won't have the same rapid internal pressurization effect. And, if the Fabric Shield is punctured, the rip-stop material won't run.

Manufacturers agree that correct installation is key to hurricane screen success. Armor Screen provides training courses for installers. Galloway and Dellatore add that fasteners anchoring the screens to the home's exterior must be installed to the correct depth. Proper installation means maximum strength during storms packing the maximum punch.