If Jeffrey Isquith had his way, the next time there's an active shooter inside a school, students and teachers will be able to duck for cover safely behind chairs, desks, and walls that are made with his company's bullet-resistant technology.
"The whole reason for this company is to protect children in schools," says the founder of Amulet Protective Technologies, which makes ballistic material that can be put into walls, doors, cubicle dividers, and office furniture to create bullet-stopping barriers in public spaces.
Isquith started Amulet in 2012 after reading about the chronic mass shootings, including Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut where 28 children and teachers were killed, and the movie theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado, which resulted in a dozen deaths.
"It occurred to me that there were these shootings at every type of public space--schools, offices, religious institutions, airports," says Isquith, who had previously worked with furniture manufacturers, as well as in General Electric's military products division. "One day I had an epiphany--what if you married ballistic tech with furniture to make shields in the public space?"
In America, where there have been six mass shootings in the first two months of 2018, finding new ways to prevent gun deaths has not only become a public crisis, but a potent business opportunity. In the week since the harrowing Parkside, Florida massacre, which resulted in 17 student and teacher deaths by an AR-15, Amulet, along with other startups in the counter-active shooter market are seeing their businesses boom.
Amulet, which has been in testing for four years, released its first product line last year and has seen a surge of interest after every mass shooting in America--particularly over the past week. "There's a real uptick in interest, especially at colleges," says Isquith over the phone from Phoenix, where he was meeting with administrators at a community college before flying to Toronto for another potential client. "We've been hearing from schools all over the country."
Amulet's technology is tested according to the National Institute for Justice's body armor standard and can stop rifle fire, including from an AR-15, an assault rifle popular with mass shooters, says Isquith. Recently, schools in three counties in Virginia retrofitted desks and walls with Amulet's ballistic barriers. Amulet's technology is also being used by Arconas, one of the largest airport seating manufacturers in North America (to make its popular Flyaway chair bullet-resistant with ballistic barriers inside), and it recently licensed its technology to about ten office and public furniture companies.
Total Security Solutions, a Michigan-based company that manufactures and installs custom bullet-resistant systems for schools, the government, gas stations, banks, and offices, has also experience a recent surge in interest and sales. "Any time an event like Parkland occurs, there is an increase and calls about the products we provide," says Jean Rozenboom, the director of administration at Total Security Solutions, noting that the Inc. 5000 company's most popular service is custom bulletproofing. Rozenboom says sales have increased about 10 percent each year since the Sandy Hook massacre in 2012.
Perhaps the most sobering product experiencing a growth surge since Parkland is the Bullet Blocker backpack. The Lowell, Massachusetts-based bullet-resistant briefcase and jacket-maker saw a 40 percent increase in overall sales, along with a 300 percent increase in sales for its backpacks, says founder Joe Curran.
Curran, a former corrections officer and firearms instructor, started Bullet Blocker after the Virginia Tech shooting. With two kids who were in elementary school at the time, Curran asked administrators what their emergency plans were, which he didn't find sufficient.
"I looked around the classroom and realized that every kid had their backpack with them and I got the idea," says Curran. He went home, cut his bulletproof vest in two pieces and made two prototypes with his son and daughter's backpacks. He's since rolled out 60 different products, ranging from a compression shirt that is bullet-resistant to a service that retrofits luxury bags with ballistic material.
While students and teachers account for much of his business, Curran says his most surprising new customer base is pastors and rabbis. "The strangest requests are for us to make a lectern bulletproof. We've already received a dozen different calls," says Curran. "You figured going to church you wouldn't feel nervous, but even the preachers are nervous."