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Three Years After Sandy Hook, Pittsfield Company Working To Prevent Tragedy

This is a picture of a tested pane of School Guard Glass
Jim Levulis
A tested pane of School Guard Glass

Today is the third anniversary of the deadly shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. Since then, mass shootings have continued frequently across the country. In a story we brought you earlier this year, WAMC’s Berkshire Bureau Chief Jim Levulis shares what one Massachusetts company is doing to prevent further tragedy.

Update: Since WAMC's original story aired in January 2015, hundreds of schools in about 30 states have placed orders for School Guard glass. In January, schools in 17 states had placed orders.

Shootings like the one at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December 2012 have created an ever-increasing focus on school safety. Well one Berkshire County man decided to do something about it.

“The day of the Sandy Hook shooting I had a daughter who was sitting in a first grade classroom here in Massachusetts,” Chris Kapiloff said. “And I knew that if the same person with the same weapon came to my daughter’s elementary school the result would’ve been the same.”

That realization led Kapiloff to create the beaten and battered, but not shattered, pane of glass standing in the lobby of a factory in Pittsfield, Massachusetts.

“So what you’re looking at here is a piece of glass that we shot six times with a .22-caliber handgun, we shot it six times with a 9-MM handgun and then we shot it 30 times with 5.56-MM assault rifle,” Kapiloff explained. “After we shot it 42 times, we subjected this to two minutes of hitting it with a baseball bat, two minutes of hitting it with a three-pound sledgehammer and then three minutes of hitting it with a 12-pound sledgehammer.”

Kapiloff is the inventor of School Guard Glass, co-owned by Kapiloff’s Glass and The LTI Group. He says the idea was to design a product that couldn’t be smashed in under five minutes, the average length of a majority of active shooter incidents, according to the FBI.

“At Sandy Hook the police were there in two and a half minutes,” Kapiloff said. “When we tested this at an independent testing facility in Maryland, it took them over 12 minutes to get through this piece of glass. The person who tested our glass was 6-foot-4, weighed about 230 pounds and had just spent the last two years in Afghanistan.”

Using patent-pending techniques, Kapiloff says what makes School Guard Glass unique is how light and inexpensive it is.

“The breakthrough that we made is we figured out how to take something that used to weigh 15 to 17 pounds a square foot and be an inch-and-a-half thick and condense it to something that weighs less than four pounds a square foot and is a quarter-inch thick.”

That means for about $800, a pane of School Guard Glass can be put inside a typical office or classroom door. Since the first prototype rolled off the assembly line nine months ago and following demonstrations around the country, hundreds of orders have been placed for schools in 17 states. And as Kapiloff explains for good reason.

“Dozens of U.S. embassies around the world have glass that was made in this factory here,” he said. “A lot of the windshields for NASCAR vehicles are made here. The glass for Tiger Woods’ yacht was made here. There are numerous FBI, CIA, Department of Defense and Homeland Security buildings that the glass was made here. Windshields for military vehicles.”

School Guard Glass is not bulletproof; it’s meant to stop people from shattering a window or door or creating a hole big enough to fit a hand inside and unlock a door. Using a CNC machine that sprays water at a particular amount of pounds per square inch, the glass can be cut to adapt to specific needs.

“So for example we used some School Guard Glass to protect a movie theater that deals with a lot of cash,” Kapiloff said. “We can cut holes in our glass so that they could put a bulletproof talk-through or speak-through in the window.”

School Guard has two layers, one the protective patent-pending side and the other tempered glass for energy efficiency, with a sealed air space in between.  All the glass in the factory is heated and pressurized in large chambers called autoclaves, SOUND POP and Kapiloff says LTI has one of the largest in the Northeast.

“We can make pieces of School Guard Glass that are 23 feet long and 10 feet wide,” he said. “We’ve not had a customer order one that big, but that means there are not too many jobs that are too big.”

The hope for School Guard Glass is that it might prevent another Sandy Hook — and in a way maybe it’s symbolic of the Newtown community.  

“It dented, but it didn’t break,” said Kapiloff.

Jim is WAMC’s Assistant News Director and hosts WAMC's flagship news programs: Midday Magazine, Northeast Report and Northeast Report Late Edition. Email: jlevulis@wamc.org
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