Sales of bulletproof backpacks boomed this month as security-conscious parents reacted to the Parkland, Fla. attack where a teen attacker armed with a military-style rifle killed 17.
Those students returned to school Wednesday amid tight security.
Quietly, a small but growing number of U.S. educational leaders have responded to the wave of similar recent tragedies by fortifying their schools with blast-resistant doors and locks, high-tech glass, and other equipment that may safeguard students and teachers from an active shooter.
School Guard Glass started selling its intruder-resistant product after the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Conn. killed 26 and wounded two. Starting with sales to roughly 50 schools in 2014, the company sold the glass to nearly 15 schools the following year, close to 300 in 2016, and nearly 400 last year, says Christopher Kapiloff, one of the Massachusetts firm’s three partners.
The company also partnered with the U.S. division of Assa Abloy Group, the Sweden-based lock and door-opening solution giant. The subsidiary did roughly $47 million in business with U.S. schools with students from kindergarten to 12th-grade in last year, says Dan Glover, a product manager for the company’s door group. That represents roughly a 10% increase over 2016, he said.
“It’s sad to say, but you have to start thinking (about security) like Israel rather than like Iowa,” said Glover.
This month’s gunfire at Florida’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School began outside the learning center and then continued inside, where 12 students were killed, according to the Broward County Sheriff’s Department.
The report findings underscored the dual importance of preventing an armed attacker from entering a school building and also stopping the shooter — potentially a student enrolled at the school — from moving from one classroom to another.
With that aim in mind, School Guard Glass used polymer research to design a product that would not necessarily stop an attacker’s bullets but would keep the gunman from getting inside a school for at least four minutes. That’s conceivably enough time for police and emergency crews to arrive.
An Assa Abloy Group video of product tests shows 90 rounds of powerful bullets used by the U.S. military M-14 battle rifle striking the door, lock, and the adjoining side-panel window into a school classroom. Following the shots, a test attacker battered the entrance with a heavy hammer.
Four minutes later, the tester remained outside, unable to gain entry.
“We stopped thinking about keeping out bullets. It’s more important to keep out people,” says Kapiloff.
Unlike heavier, bulletproof glass, Kapiloff said his company’s product can be installed in schools’ existing doors and window openings. As a result, it’s often affordable for school officials whose budgets won’t cover a full retrofitting, he said.
Other companies also have focused on door and glass safeguards to protect school students.
Upper Marlboro, Md.-based United States Bullet Proofing historically has sold its blast-resistant doors, wall armor and protective windows to embassies and major government facilities, including the Eisenhower Executive Office Building near the White House in Washington, D.C.
However, a few dozen U.S. private schools, which may have higher budgets than their public school counterparts, bought the heavy-duty security doors during the last few years, says Ken Sampson, the company’s president. Officials at one of those schools did not respond to a USA TODAY interview request.
In a wave of demonstrations reaching from Arizona to Maine, students at dozens of U.S. high schools walked out of class Wednesday to protest gun violence and honor the victims of last week’s deadly shooting in Florida. Time
Other manufacturers of security doors and windows reported increased sales interest since the Florida attack. Internet page views for San Diego-based ePlastics nearly doubled to almost 1,000 during the week after the tragedy, says Elliott Rabin, the company’s president.
Justin Rivard, a student at Wisconsin’s Somerset High School, used a do-it-yourself approach to produce a product that would stop an attacker from getting through many school doors.
He’s filling hundreds of orders, including some since the Florida shooting, for the $95 JustinKase steel-plates-and-rods device he developed in his high school shop class. The product makes it difficult for any intruder to open inward-opening doors. He’s now developing a prototype for doors that open outward.
Rivard developed the idea during an active-shooter drill his school held last year when he and other students tried to barricade a door.
“We had these triangular door stops that we jammed under the door, but they just slid on the tiles,” says Rivard, a 17-year-old senior.
“I’d say I would have made an impact as soon as they’re in more than half the country,” Rivard said of his budding business success. “One school is not more important than any other,” he added.
A tearful student who was wounded in the shooting rampage at a Florida high school thanked the doctors and first responders who helped her and said she’s making a full recovery. (Feb. 26) AP
Compared with the hundreds of thousands of schools that dot the nation, current efforts to protect schools or individual classrooms from an attack are relatively few. That’s pushed parents and families to search for ways to protect their loved ones with other equipment.
For instance, bulletproof backpacks and backpacks with insertable bulletproof panels have been selling out, even though they might not prove effective against some firearms. National Institute of Justice ratings show the respective backpacks and backpack inserts would stop bullets from nearly all handguns — but would not have stopped bullets from the AR-15 style rifle used by the Parkland killer.
Despite the limits of the products, Tom Nardone, president of BulletSafe.com, knew the attack would increase purchase orders for his company’s bulletproof backpack panels and other school safety equipment. Every U.S. mass shooting in recent years has sent sales booming for the Troy, Michigan company.
“This time, the backpack product has gone crazy,” says Nardone, estimating that buyers snapped up 200 of the panels within days of the tragedy — representing a 450% sales jump from January that has left him sold out until June. “In some ways, it’s not what we set out to do with our business, but this is what happens,” he says.
Guard Dog Security, a company based in Sanford, Fla. similarly sold out its inventory of $189.99 bulletproof backpacks after the Parkland massacre. Supply was so scarce that company president Yasir Sheikh says he pulled two of the pre-sold backpacks and sent them free-of-charge to a mother who lost a daughter in the Parkland shooting and wanted protection for her two sons.
Sheikh says he’s also donating half of his recent sales to victims and families of the shooting.
Bulletproof product types are fragmented by hundreds of companies, and sales vary widely, making it difficult to quantify the market linked to school-related safety. Dow DuPont, the manufacturer of Kevlar, the material used in many bulletproof vests, said it does not break out sales of the product.
A July 2016 report by Grand View Research estimated the annual global market for body armor would total nearly $5.7 billion by 2024. Body armor has already become a $465-million-a-year industry in the U.S. according to a December report by BodyArmorNews.com, a Netherlands-based publication.