A high-tech security blanket could be one solution to help protect students in certain kinds of disasters at school. ProTecht, a company in Oklahoma, has developed a blanket made from lightweight bulletproof material that can shield a child from flying debris during a tornado, or from a bullet from a gunman, the Oklahoman newspaper reports.
The Bodyguard Blanket is a rectangular pad, less than half an inch thick, that a child puts on just like a backpack, that protects them from head to toe when they crouch on the floor.
“As the students put them on and line up in the hallway, they develop a shield like the Romans and Greeks used to lock together, so it gives them added protection," said Stan Schone, one of the inventors of the blanket, according to News Channel 4, Oklahoma City.
Schone worked with Steve Walker, a physician from Edmond, Oklahoma, to develop the pad after a deadly tornado struck the town of Moore last year. Seven children were among those killed by the storm; they were inside an elementary school that didn't have a tornado shelter.
"We're trying to stop that blunt-force trauma, when that rubble is falling down on a child, for instance," said Walker, during an interview with the Oklahoman.
Another partner is Jay Hanan, an engineer at Oklahoma State University-Tulsa, who suggested they use Dyneema, a high-density plastic used for ballistic armor that is lighter than Kevlar.
That material also protects against nails, shards of metal and other sharp objects.
“We wanted our children to have a layer of protection immediately. They can be stored in the classroom and when seconds count, they can be easily applied," said Walker, according to News Channel 4.
The blankets aren’t a replacement for tornado shelters, the company said. But even at $1,000 per blanket, it would be less expensive for schools to buy one for each student than to build tornado shelters.
Schone suggests the blanket would provide kids better protection in a shooting situation.
“They can lock the door and put these on in a matter of seconds," said Schone.
The blanket has been in production for about 10 months, and the company just began marketing it a few weeks ago.
In Minnesota, schools are required to have a crisis management plan in place that covers weather emergencies as well as shootings and bomb threats, according to MPR News, and schools are also required to hold several safety drills every year -- including five fire drills, five lockdown drills, and one tornado drill.