HOUSTON - It's a lifesaving question: Is there a way to bulletproof our children at school?
The developers of a brand-new, bulletproof safe room, designed to fit inside your child’s classroom, think they have found the answer and they are now in discussions with more than 100 school districts across the country.
Jim Haslem is the president of the company Shelter In Place LLC, which is building these elevator-sized, double-steel-walled enclosures.
How many children can you fit into one of these classroom bunkers?
“Well, in an elementary school classroom, it’s about 33 students plus one teacher," Haslem said. "In a high school, it's roughly half that, or 17 students, because of their size. But we are building different sizes to fit whatever that school's needs are."
Looking a lot like a steel bank vault, these ballistic boxes are designed to give an entire classroom of children an impenetrable, protective safe room, that they can get inside within 30 seconds of the first signs of an active shooter attack.
Now working with Montgomery police chief and former U.S. Secret Service agent Jim Napolitano, Channel 2 Investigates is putting this supposed bulletproof safe room to the test.
With the help and indulgence of Creekwood Shooting Sports in Conroe and its owner, Scott Oliver, our reporters wanted to test this safe room by firing several high-powered weapons, often used in mass shootings, directly at the bulletproof enclosure to see how it would hold up.
Napolitano fired 15 rounds with a powerful AR-15.
As he opened fire, the safe room exterior was dented and the bullets bounced off, but nothing penetrated the inside wall of the enclosure.
In fact, there wasn't a scratch on the inside wall where the children would be housed.
Up next was the AK-47.
Again, Napolitano fired multiple rounds, hitting the steel box over and over again.
Once again, the bullets bounced off. Some appeared to partially enter the outer skin of the wall, but didn't make it through the approximately quarter-inch-thick, hardened steel exterior wall.
On the inside, again, there was no damage. Not one mark could be seen on the interior wall of the safe room.
So, we decided to take the test a step further.
Haslem said he wanted to sit inside the shelter as we fired weapons at it.
We refused to fire the larger weapons, the AK-47 and the AR-15, but we were willing to fire at the box with a 9-mm Glock and a .22-caliber Derringer Magnum.
These weapons have been fired at this safe room before and never penetrated it.
Still, it was harrowing to watch in person, as Napolitano fired at the safe room repeatedly with both weapons while someone was inside.
Five minutes later, we entered the safe room to check on Haslem.
“How are you Jim?" Bill Spencer asked. "Are you all right?"
“Absolutely -- perfectly fine," Haslem said with a smile. "All is well."
The interior walls of the room around him looked spotless and gleaming, without so much as even a mark on any of the surfaces.
“I believe in this product," Haslem said. "If I didn’t, there is no way I would ever put small children inside these rooms."
Results like that are the reason school officials all over the country are looking at this new idea to help protect children.
Haslem’s sales force claims to be in discussions with more than 150 different school districts.
Those are just discussions at this point, not sales.
“This shelter is definitely one of the components we are considering as a way of protecting our children," said John Haugen, with the Carroll Independent School District in Southlake, Texas. "Everything I’ve seen about that shelter tells me you are not getting into it unless someone lets you into it."
Napolitano, whose job was to protect five presidents of the United States, is impressed.
“This thing worked perfectly," he said. "It’s a great piece of equipment. It does exactly what it’s designed to do. I would love for this to be in my child’s school."
And what do parents with school-aged children in Houston think of the idea?
“I think it’s an awesome idea, actually," said Toilicia Caldwell, a mother of three. "Like, how many kids have to die before (the schools) decide, 'OK, we got to do something different here?'”
“It’s a great idea because the children, they need to stay safe," Gloria Negrete said. "We have to do something."
Look above for a special video presentation showing what Haslem went through inside the safe room as we fired at it.
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