A Lowcountry military steel company has developed a bullet-resistant door which has been installed in two Charleston-area schools.
R2P Bulletproof Doors are a subsidiary of Pegasus Steel, a South African company whose North American headquarters is in Goose Creek. The company develops ballistic technology used to build mine-resistant vehicles during the Iraq War. Executives say the company’s next progression was to use the technology to save civilian lives.
“We started seeing these school shootings being such a problem and not seeing the answers that we were looking for,” R2P Innovations Director of Special Projects Kirk Ferguson said. “Tony (Deering, company founder) turned his attention toward it. It became a passion project of his to find a feasible answer to take what he’s been doing for most of his adult life and turn that into a way to try to stop this problem.”
The doors are designed to stop bullets as large as 7.62 mm fired from assault rifles. For security reasons, Charleston County School District has not identified the schools where the doors are installed.
“If you look at school shootings the largest that has been used is a 5.56 mm assault rifle,” Ferguson said. “Ours will actually stop a caliber larger than that so, yes, it does stop all common use assault rifle calibers.”
A common problem with bullet-proof doors is their weight, requiring specially-designed door frames, opening mechanisms and walls. It’s taken four years for R2P to develop the technology for a lighter-weight door that can be installed into existing door frames and can be undetected.
“They are completely covert,” Ferguson said. “Nobody knows they’re there.”
Ferguson said the company has been contacted by school districts in New Jersey, New York, Wisconsin and Texas for potential installation.
“With a product like this, it’s getting a lot of attention. People are asking about it,” he said. “The breakthrough in this product is the size and the weight. It’s half the weight. It fits in a normal door thickness and therefore you can actually retrofit and put it right in existing door frames to make the bulletproof feasible. Otherwise, for what’s being offered by anyone else in this realm, it’s completely unfeasible.”
Ferguson is a believer in the technology. He spent 25 years in Army Special Operations, was on nine combat deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan and said he would not be here today if it were not for a ballistic vest that stopped an AK-47 round.
“It saved my life,” he said. “So I’m pretty adamant about placing something between myself and a shooter as the ultimate line of defense… So many other security measures are great and they’re well-meaning but when someone has made up their mind to walk through that door and do these things, nothing else will actually save a life like putting this door between a shooter and children.”
The doors are not limited for use in schools. Ferguson says they can also be installed in private homes, hospitals, government buildings or even office spaces.
R2P employs more than 150 employees at production facilities in Ladson and Goose Creek.