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Oklahoma school district uses bulletproof shelters to protect from active shooters and tornadoes

Healdton Public Schools has installed bulletproof storm shelters to protect students in the event of a tornado or an active shooter. (Image source: YouTube screenshot)

The superintendent of a small school district in Oklahoma had seven bulletproof storm shelters installed in his elementary school, KOCO 5 reports. As lawmakers and educators debate ways to protect students from the threat of active shooters, the idea could gain popularity as a potential solution.

What’s the story?

Superintendent Terry Shaw of Healdton Public Schools in southern Oklahoma saw some areas where his schools were lacking back in 2015.

First, Oklahoma is in the heart of tornado alley, which means deadly and destructive storms are a threat for most of the year, particularly in the spring.

At the same time, he knew that, while unlikely, there was always a chance that someone could attempt to bring a gun to a school and attempt to harm students, teachers or staff.

So he purchased seven BulletProof Saferoom Storm Shelters from Shelter-In-Place, funding the first six shelters through a bond issue.

For the seventh, he raised the funds through a commitment to finish the Oklahoma City Memorial marathon, which he completed even though he broke his foot during the 20th mile.

Shaw has since had two shelters installed in the middle school, and is now working on getting some for the high school.

Shaw said Healdton had a school shooting “copycat” threat that was investigated after the deadly shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

Where are the shelters?

The storm shelters can be installed in a corner of classrooms, and hold about 35 students and two teachers.

Shaw tested the shelters himself before they were installed, volunteering to sit inside one while someone shot a gun directly at it.

"I volunteered. I did not feel comfortable putting these in my buildings if I wasn't willing to do it myself. So I offered to go inside," Shaw said. "It was very surreal, but I felt very comfortable. Very safe."

Because the shelters are in the classroom, students can get inside within 10-12 seconds, which Shaw said can be the difference between life and death in the event of a tornado or active shooter situation.

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