School shootings involving active shooters are becoming more and more prevalent, and with the increase in incidents comes an increase in fear. A few companies are making products to capitalize on that fear, and hopefully keep your children safer in the process.
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I think most of us remember where we were on April 20, 1999. If that date doesn’t sound familiar to you, this word will: Columbine. Like O.J. Simpson’s slow-speed Bronco chase, Princess Diana’s death and 9/11, Columbine was a defining moment. It was a large-scale, fully-plotted active shooter event on school property. School, a place populated by innocent children, a place usually thought to be safe. And while it wasn’t the first U.S. school shooting, it was the first one most remember.

Since Columbine, school shootings have gone from random massacres to all-too-often occurrences. Virginia Tech. Northern Illinois University. Sandy Hook. And just this month, Seattle Pacific University and Reynolds High. The laundry list of school names immortalized is staggering, and the instances are getting more and more frequent. When you think about the lives lost and those affected by these tragedies, it is beyond heartbreaking.

We can't agree on why

Ad nauseam discussions have taken place on the “whys” of the massacres. Some point to deficient mental health care. Others to the practice of using school resource officers, also-known-as “soft cops,” on campus. Some believe loose gun control regulation is the cause. And still others point to the prevalence of media violence in the lives of kids. To figure out the “why” and stop them altogether would be ideal and what everyone would like to see happen. But in the interim, we need to look toward protecting our children from the increasing inevitability that they will be victimized by one of these events.

We don't live in a perfect world

Ideally, during an active shooter event kids and staff would be able to safely and quickly evacuate the buildings with no one being harmed. That is rarely the case in active shooter situations though, with entire classes often times being trapped in their rooms. A few enterprising individuals (not surprisingly, mostly teachers and cops) have developed devices to protect these trapped kids from active shooters. While none is fail-safe, they all buy a little time until law enforcement can arrive and (hopefully) save the day.

The Hydra-Lock System

School shooting protection- Hydra-Lock SystemThe Hydra-Lock System is a door strap designed to prevent hydraulic doors from being opened. It wraps around the hydraulic arm of the door, preventing it from moving. It was developed initially by a police S.W.A.T. team leader to secure doors behind his team as they would move through clearing the rooms of buildings. The Hydra-Lock System is being marketed to schools now for use during active shooter situations: “With incidents of school shootings on the rise, parents, politicians and school administrators alike are left asking themselves what they can do to protect the children while at school… What if you could devise a way to quickly barricade the students into the safety of a classroom away from danger. Well now you can.”

School shooting protection- Fighting Chance Solution's Sleeve

The Sleeve

Similar to the Hydra-Lock System is Fighting Chance Solution's Sleeve. Developed by a “team of teachers and administrators from Muscatine, Iowa,” it too prevents the hydraulic arm of the door from moving. This product, made of carbon steel, secures over the arm of the door effectively sealing it from entry. It is being marketed exclusively to schools, specifically for active shooter situations.

The blanket

School shooting protection- Bodyguard BlanketThe product garnering recent media coverage is the bulletproof blanket, sold under several names by several companies. Bodyguard Blanket is the one getting the most attention, as they are marketing specifically to schools for both active shooter and natural disaster (tornado and inclement weather) situations. “ProTect researched and developed the Bodyguard blanket in order to provide superior protection for children and teachers while at school,” reads their website. The ballistic blanket is made from the same Kevlar as police and military vests, comes in three different sizes, and is "NIJ IIIa" rated — which means it will stop rounds up to and including .44 Magnum rounds shot from a pistol and 9mm rounds shot from a submachine gun. The blanket is designed to attach to the child’s back, as they huddle near the ground in a fetal position with the blanket facing the intruder.

None is a reason to stay behind

Each product has its flaws though. Both the Hydra-Lock System and The Sleeve require a tall teacher (or a chair) to install, as well as the use of some fine motor skills which may be diminished as the adrenaline starts to flow. The Sleeve needs to be specifically fitted to the type of hydraulic arm your door has, which leaves room for human error in the ordering and distribution of the products. Rounds can penetrate a locked door, particularly if the gunman is armed with door breaching rounds. And the ballistic armor of the Bodyguard Blanket offers no protection from high-powered rifle rounds and shotguns — which is what were used at Columbine, Northern Illinois, Sandy Hook, Seattle Pacific and Reynolds (among others).

The bottom line?

These products are great, but teachers and staff need to use them as what they are intended to be — a last resort. Having such items issued to classrooms could provide a false sense of security and prevent the in-charge adult from evacuating the building when and if the opportunity arises. In an active shooter situation, the very best option isn’t to be hidden under a bulletproof blanket or barricaded behind a door — it is to get far away as quickly and safely as possible.

Share with us!^ What's your take? Would you feel your child was safer if the school had active shooter gear?

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