A orange bulletproof blanket could come between a child and tornadic debris or a 9 mm bullet, forging a better “opportunity to survive.”
The Bodyguard Blanket, made by ProTecht, is a bulletproof pad designed to protect students during disasters at school. The 5/16-inch thick rectangle features backpack-like straps that allow users to don it, and then duck and cover.
“We’re trying to stop that blunt-force trauma when that rubble is falling down on a child, for instance,” said Steve Walker, who developed the idea.
Walker is a podiatrist in Edmond. After last year’s tornadoes, he decided children without access to tornado shelters needed some kind of protection.
He gave a sketch of the protective blanket to Stan Schone, an inventor and one of his patients, during an appointment.
The two form half of the executive team at ProTecht. The others are Jeff Quinn and Jay Hanan.
Hanan is an associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at Oklahoma State University-Tulsa. He introduced the team to Dyneema, a high-density plastic used for ballistic armor that is lighter than Kevlar.
The new material also protects against sharp objects, like nails and shards of metal.
“Instead of bending over and hoping for the best, they’re afforded an extra layer of protection,” Schone said.
Schone and Walker suggest, in terms of tornado safety, the blankets aren’t a replacement, but a more economical option. At $1,000 per blanket, they believe buying one one per student would be less expensive than building tornado shelters.
“By no means would we ever say that this is more protective,” Walker said “But when you have budget constraints, this might be a viable alternative.”
It would also be faster.
“It’d take a long time to build tornado shelters for every kid in Oklahoma,” Schone said.
Schone argued that although the blankets aren’t better for tornadoes overall, they are better for school shootings. A safe room doesn’t help much during shootings because it requires travel, he said.
“They can lock the door and put these on in a matter of seconds.”
ProTecht took a finished blanket to a shooting range and had it subjected to a National Institute of Justice Class 3A test, which is used to test body armor for police units. This classification implies protection against various projectiles, including 12-gauge buckshot, as well as .22-caliber and 9 mm bullets. It passed, Schone said.
Miami, OK-based Tote Along manufactures the blankets. The members of ProTecht chose to stay local to be able to watch the blankets being made.
“You can’t do that if you’re making them in China,” Schone said.
The blanket has been in production for about 10 months, and the team started marketing it about a week ago, Schone said.
The team plans to work with buyers on prices. Instead of having an online store, they suggest shoppers visit their website at bodyguardblanket.com.
Although they don’t offer a guarantee, the pair said believe the product would be a valuable addition to the classroom.
“This thing gives kids an option, an alternative that will give them an opportunity to survive,” Schone said.