Hardwire Supplies WPS With High-Tech Safety Gear

BERLIN — With security in schools a hot topic everywhere, Hardwire LLC has made a sizeable donation of high-tech, polyethylene ballistic protection gear to Worcester Preparatory School.

The goal, explained headmaster Dr. Barry Tull, is to add “another layer of protection” to Worcester Prep’s emergency security system.

“Basically, it just provides one additional layer of protection to what we have been currently doing with all of the perimeter protection,” he said. “This just adds widespread protection to all of the buildings on our campus.”

According to Tull, Hardwire CEO George Tunis has donated in excess of $20,000 worth of polyethylene anti-ballistic shields. The shields also function as classroom whiteboards and clipboards. The shields, which Tull confirmed are now located in the school, are designed to meet National Institution of Justice standards and have no noticeable psychological impact on students. They do this by blending into the classroom setting, according to Hardwire.

Tull called accepting the donation “a no brainer,” though he made sure to receive support from Worcester Prep’s security committee before moving forward. After receiving a call from Tunis on New Year’s Day, Tull said that he quickly met with the Hardwire CEO and subsequently asked him to make a presentation to the committee.

“I thought it had real merit. We have a board security committee that we’ve had in place for the last 10 years,” he said. “We had a meeting that was coming up in the next few days so I invited George to attend that meeting, and he presented it to the committee and everyone agreed that it would be a good thing.”

According to Tull, all of the materials have been received and are currently deployed on the campus. Tunis confirmed that 90 pieces of armor in the form of clipboards and whiteboards were donated, enough to supply every adult in the school.

“We wanted to start with something straightforward and portable in the hands of adults,” said Tunis.

The shields are lightweight, with whiteboards weighing less than four pounds and clipboards about a single pound. They are also easy to use, said Tunis, and require limited training, which Hardwire has experts on staff to facilitate.

As an added bonus, items like the polyethylene whiteboards, which are rated to “absorb multiple clips of ammunition without ricochet or injury” as well as the clipboards have the potential to become interactive in the future.

Over the last few years, Smartboards have seen in explosion of popularity nationally and in Worcester, with a number of schools, including all public schools in the county, employing the technology.

While the shields have obvious limitations due to their size, Worcester Prep Board of Trustees President Buddy Jenkins said that any obstacle for a shooter, even if it’s just a temporary one, is worth adding to the school’s security.

“Anything that can hamper the progress of an intruder, even if it’s just for a few seconds or minutes, is valuable,” he said.

For reasons of security, Tull did not go into details on other protection policies that Worcester Prep has in place besides the new polyethylene shields, though he did promise that a solid emergency plan has been in place for years and is constantly evaluated and upgraded.

“In the current environment, if we, in education, can team with our partners in the business and law enforcement communities to be proactive and resourceful, our students will benefit,” Tull said. “We will continue to research and provide additional layers of protection and thank George Tunis and Hardwire for their ideas, products and interest.”

Ballistic shields are just the beginning of how the technology can be applied, according to Tunis.

“We can basically turn anything into armor,” he said. “We’ve done wedding pictures.”

Doors wouldn’t even have to be replaced, since the material can be formed into inserts and added to the existing space. It can also be blended in so as to be unnoticeable. Tunis compared the potential for the technology to having a series of armored points in a school much like having a network of fire extinguishers, in addition to the portable ballistic shields.

Both Wicomico County Schools and Worcester County Public Schools have heard presentations from Tunis about the technology.

Barb Witherow, Coordinator of Public Relations and Special Programs for Worcester County Public Schools, confirmed that Tunis has made a presentation to the county Board of Education that is under consideration.

“Hardwire did make a presentation to our school system leadership regarding bullet proof shields,” she said. “Although the shields are one of many strategies under consideration, no decisions have been made about Hardwire products at this time.”

Tunis said that while Hardwire would like to work with Wicomico and Worcester to put ballistic shields in every classroom, they are especially interested in supplying materials to Pocomoke High School (PHS), which is located only a few miles from the Hardwire corporate headquarters.