A South Carolina business’ display in the Hilton Head Marriott Resort and Spa parking lot Friday had an unusual pitch just two days after the Parkland, Fla., school shootings killed 17 people.
The potential customers: schools boards across South Carolina that had descended upon the hotel for their annual statewide conference.
For sale: a collapsible, bulletproof vault to protect students in active shooter situations.
Instead of vulnerable students forced to flee, military veteran Jeff Carson said he devised a way to keep children in the classroom, but out of a gunman’s way with a collapsible, bulletproof vault.
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“It doesn’t matter what the guy does out there,” Carson said. “You’re safe in the vault.”
The Vault for Active Shooters and Tornados (VAST 6) stands up straight against a wall but can expand into a bulletproof vault within 30 seconds. The door locks from the inside with three bolts and the ballistic material absorbs bullets instead of ricocheting off the walls.
The vault can withstand bullets from semiautomatic AR-15 rifles, the weapon used in five of the six most deadly shootings in the U.S. within the last six years, including at Parkland’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
“This way, you don’t have to run,” said James Brown of Big 6, the Campobello, S.C. company that designed the product. “You stay in the classroom.”
VAST 6’s prototype required a person to lift about 90 pounds in order to open up the vault. With an assist from engineers at Clemson University, that lift was reduced to a more-manageable 50 pounds by tweaking the model and adding springs.
The vault isn’t in any schools right now, Carson said.
Cost is likely a factor.
A 6-by-8-foot vault for roughly 25 elementary school children runs about $32,000, he said. And a vault two times that size that could accommodate a class of 30 high school students runs about $60,000.
From 2015 to 2017, Beaufort County School District reported 36 weapons incidents, according to the S.C. Department of Education. These offenses include all weapons, not just firearms.