Inspired by the deadly 2013 Moore, Oklahoma, EF5 tornado that devastated the town on May 20, 2013, Oklahoma inventors Dr. Steve Walker and Stan Schone with ProTecht, LLC™, have developed the nation's first "tornado lifejacket."
Made from heavy-duty nylon, an impact gel product and Dyneema®, a high-tech body armor material, and modeled after the old Roman phalanx shields, the duo created a product dubbed BODYGUARD™. The product is a blanketlike, protective shield designed to "provide superior protection for children and teachers while at school."
"It's like a life jacket on a ship or on a boat," Managing Member of ProTecht, LLC™, and Co-Inventor of BODYGUARD™ Stan Schone said. "There is no guarantee that if you go in the water with a lifejacket on that you will survive, but you do have a greater chance of survival with that lifejacket on."
Constructed to withstand flying debris during a tornado, these blankets could prove essential in protecting children from life-threatening or even deadly injuries resulting from high impacts with tornado debris.
"They are made of ballistic materials to help stop debris," Schone said. "In most schools, hallways are pretty safe, except for flying debris coming down the halls."
If a school was under a tornado warning, the blankets would first be handed out to a class by a teacher, before the class proceeded to their school's designated tornado drill location, probably in a hallway or bathroom. Made specifically for tornadoes where every minute counts, the blankets can be put on a class of 20 in less than two minutes, according to Schone.
After getting to their assigned location, kids would line up shoulder-to-shoulder along a wall and would get into the typical crouching position. While crouching, each child would pull the handles on the blanket and pull the blanket over their head.
"They are covered from the top of their head to their bottom and if they are bunched up side-by-side then debris will fly right across the top of them," Schone said.
Made in the color of safety orange, even if a tornado causes a school to collapse, emergency responders would be able to locate possible victims more quickly within the rubble.
"We talked with first responders and they wanted the blanket in bright colors so that they could see it," Schone said. "The quicker you are found in a debris field of a tornado, the greater chance you have to survive."
Aside from uses in a severe weather situation, the blankets are also bulletproof, providing protection in a school shooting scenario. Comparable to a bulletproof police vest, able to stop the same types of ballistic materials, these blankets start at $1,000, at least $1,500 less than the cost of a police vest.
Recently the company has expanded their product line, developing another version of the blanket called Storm ProTecht™, created to aid homeowners.
Made with thicker gel material and less ballistic material, these blankets, unlike the version for schools, are not bulletproof but were developed particularly to provide protection to individuals in homes where tornado and storm shelters are unavailable, according to Schone.
"The average installation of a storm shelter that they put in your garage is about $3,000, but most people don't have $3,000 and a lot of people rent homes or apartments - or there are people in nursing homes - and they have no storm shelter," Schone said. "These blanket offer these people a greater opportunity to survive a tornado."
Produced in a florescent yellow-green color, Storm ProTecht™ blankets cost between $300 and $550.
Outside of a home or building setting, Schone states that these blankets could also provide some protection to those stuck out on the roadway during a severe storm or tornado.
"You can't save everybody's life, but you still gotta make an attempt to save human life," Schone said. "We are giving people a life preserver for tornadoes that they've never had before, and if it saves one life, then it's worth all of the money in the world."