Sales of bulletproof bookcases – the latest product as a last line of defense against school shootings – have soared in the wake of the Texas massacre.
ProtecED Furniture’s CEO Pete Facchini insists ‘lives would have been saved if they had our bookcase’ at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde – where gunman Salvador Ramos murdered 19 children and two teachers.
Co-founder and military veteran Jake Ahle told Marietta Daily Journal ‘the amount of interest we’ve been getting in our product is 10 times anything we had in the last year and a half, two years, because of what happened in Texas’.
The Georgia-based company produces bookcases made of steel on the outside and Kevlar, a bullet proof synthetic fiber, on the inside.
They are on wheels – so are easy to maneuver – and are equipped with a mirror so any prospective shooter attempting to peer into a class room will only be met by their own reflection.
Pete Facchini said that he believes lives would have been saved in Uvalde if the school had been equipped with his product
According to the CEO, ‘numerous’ schools in New Jersey are using the shelves, as are corporate offices in California, he also said that people who run churches and synagogues have also asked about purchasing the shelves
According to the company’s website, ProtectED can be installed in schools for an average cost of $25 per student per year.
There are 475 students enrolled in Robb Elementary School. Going along with the company’s estimates, it would have cost $11,875 to secure the school.
The Texas Tribune reported the school district received $69,000 in January 2020 to enhance physical security at the school.
Facchini, also a military veteran with the US Army Special Operations Command, told 11Alive in an interview: ‘All of these mass shootings, the significant loss of life is because he gains access to the room.’
‘If you look at the timeline from the first time the teacher called 911 to the time he gained access to the building, within 15 seconds, those classrooms could have been locked down.’
Following the Uvalde shooting, one manufacturer of bulletproof backpacks reported an 800 percent increase in sales, reported The Dallas Morning News.
18-year-old shooter Salvador Ramos who killed 22 people at Robb Elementary School on May 24. The school district where Robb Elementary was located received a grant of $69,000 to enhance physical security in 2020
This graphic reflect Salvador Ramos’ actions on the day of the massacre in Uvalde
Law enforcement work the scene after a mass shooting at Robb Elementary School
School hardening for security against active shooters has long been a controversial issue
School hardening for security against active shooters has long been a controversial issue.
In 2019, school safety expert Kenneth Trump told the National Education Associations’ website: ‘A skewed focus on target hardening neglects the time and resources needed to spend on professional development training, planning, behavioral and mental health intervention supports for students, and other best practices.’
Jagdish Khubchandani, a public health professor at New Mexico State University, told The Texas Tribune in the wake of Uvalde: ‘This concept of hardening, the more it has been done, it’s not shown the results.’
According to the company’s website, Facchini became interested in the idea of finding a way to save lives during active shooting events following the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting.
On that day, 32 people were killed by crazed gunman Seung-Hui Cho on campus at the school.
In an interview with CBS46, Facchini said: ‘That was kind of like what got me thinking, and then when Sandy Hook happened, it was gut-wrenching to think kids were trapped in a classroom.’
A promotional video on ProtectEd’s website showing two children moving the bookcase into position
People pay their respects and leave tributes outside of Robb Elementary School for the victims of the shooting, Uvalde, Texas
The trio came together to develop their product in 2020.
In 2021, Ahle told Poets and Quants, a business school publication, that in order to test the quality of the shelves, the company rented land in a central New Jersey.
Ahle said that rooms blocked by the shelves could not be breached until explosives were used.
He said: ‘They could not get into the room that was blocked by our bookcase until they used explosives. Only after explosives were they able to get in. Of course, our product isn’t rated to withstand rocket-propelled grenades.’
Facchini said that the company’s goal was to create something that would blend into the classroom environment.
He said: ‘We didn’t want a kid to sit in the classroom and look at something every day and say ‘that’s in case of an active shooter.’
Facchini added: ‘My children go to school in Cherokee county, my wife is a teacher in Cobb County, so I have a vested interest for my family alone.’
According to the CEO, ‘numerous’ schools in New Jersey are using the shelves, as are corporate offices in California, he also said that people who run churches and synagogues have also asked about purchasing the shelves.
Ahle in the center, pictured with Facchini on the right alongside the production designer Tim Cahalin
The principal of one of the schools in New Jersey that purchased the shelves told the Daily Journal: ‘We as a country continue to be a reactive environment, so a company like this allows an administrator like me to be proactive to prevent these things because, unfortunately, this violence isn’t going to stop.’
The principal chose to remain anonymous citing safety concerns.
Ahle said that the company wants to secure a contract in Georgia to help to protect schools where the company is based.
Facchini said in the CBS46 interview: ‘You know, the most catastrophic event is Sandy Hook, it’s Uvalde, when you have a gunman enter a room, and a bunch of people are trapped in there. So that’s what we wanted to address, and I think this product does it perfectly.’
Facchini is a 20 year US Army Special Operations veteran. He fought in the War on Terror and is the recipient of three Bronze Stars. He has expertise in marksmanship, breaching, close quarters battle and small unit tactics, according to his profile on the company’s website. He retired from the military in 2019.
He said that he became fully immersed in the idea of building the product following his retirement from the military in 2019. Ahle and Facchini served in the same Army squadron together. Ahle graduated from US Army Ranger School and was an Airborne Infantry Officer.
The company’s other founder is Tom Ankenbauer, another military veteran who was deployed in both Iraq and Afghanistan.