On Tuesday, a gunman fired at two students at Great Mills High School in Maryland, injuring both of them.
The event was the latest school shooting in the US, where a nationwide debate on the role of guns – especially automatic weapons – in civic society is ramping up. On February 14, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, made headlines when a gunman killed 17 people.
There most likely won’t be only one solution to gun violence in schools. But one Utah-based couple believes they have created a temporary way that could make students safer.
In 2013, a Salt Lake City resident named Jim Haslem founded Shelter in Place, a company that builds custom, military-grade refuges designed to withstand bullets and extreme weather events. The first shelter was installed at an Oklahoma elementary school in 2015, and hundreds of American schools have them today.
Haslem told Business Insider that orders and inquiries from school districts had skyrocketed since the Parkland shooting.
Take a look below.
This 5-by-6-foot shelter was constructed for a classroom at Healdton Elementary in Oklahoma. Featuring 6,000 pounds of steel, it can fit 20 students and costs $US20,000.
The company often contracts local veterans to build each shelter. The company says it takes two people four hours to assemble.
In the event of a storm or shooting, students would be expected to file into the shelter in less than 30 seconds.
The structure features a camera on the outside that streams to an interior monitor. Inside, there are also padded benches, a battery backup, carpet flooring, lighting, and a ventilation system.
They double as reading rooms, which Haslem says makes them less intrusive to classrooms.
He doesn’t see the shelters as a fix-all for school shootings but believes they are a more bipartisan solution than gun regulation.
Made of ballistic steel, the shelters are super-strong. They can resist every type of bullet, including weapons that school shooters typically use, like AR-15s. They are also designed to resist explosives, EF5 tornadoes, Category 5 hurricanes, and 9.5 magnitude earthquakes.
Shelter in Place partners with structural engineers, fabricators, and steel companies across the US for its materials. Most of the steel comes from Las Vegas, Haslem says.
In the photo below, you can see that .40-calibre bullets (shot from various distances) made a few dents without passing through.
The bolts that hold the walls together are made from the same steel.
Haslem’s team makes the shelters from 18-inch panels, and they can be customised to any size. Here is one that was built in a school library:
In another school in Oklahoma, Shelter in Place designed a large shelter for a gymnasium. It can fit 150 kids and includes two doors and two sets of cameras and monitors.
Haslem came up with the idea for the school shelters after the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in 2012, when a gunman killed 20 children and six staff members.
“My wife and I were watching the news after the [Sandy Hook] shooting, and we were saying to ourselves, ‘Somebody’s gotta do something.’ And then it hit us: We’re somebody. We can do something,” he said.
The market for school security is growing. In 2017, sales of security equipment and services to the education sector hit $US2.7 billion, up from $US2.5 billion in 2015, according to data from IHS Markit.
Source: The New York Times
When Haslem meets with school boards, they often say they are comforted by the fact that the shelters can stop bullets.
Schools “pretend that storms are their biggest concern, but the thing that’s the most horrifying is the shooter,” he said.
Haslem said that since the Parkland shooting he had received orders and inquiries from about 400 school districts — a number he expects to grow as these tragedies continue.
“We’re receiving around 100,000 calls and emails now,” he said. “We’re not doing this to get rich … When the country is hurting and kids are dying, people look for solutions.”
He also acknowledges that fear from parents, teachers, and superintendents has contributed to his company’s sales growth.
“In a time when you feel scared, the shelters give a feeling of hope and comfort,” he said.