Tech Innovations

Simple Device Secures Doors, Peace of Mind

Location: Michigan By Becky Lewis Published November 2014

The words crackle over the loudspeaker: “Attention. We have a lockdown situation. Repeat, we have a lockdown situation.” Just as they have in drills, the students quickly move to the rear of the classroom. The teacher follows, but not before she lifts a horseshoe-shaped object from its bracket next to the classroom door and drops it into place, securing the door more surely than any dead bolt can do.

Created by a local entrepreneur, first to secure his daughter’s dorm room and then marketed to Michigan schools in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook Elementary tragedy, the horseshoe-shaped rebar slides into two pre-drilled holes and secures the door against brute force attacks, ensuring that a threatening individual will either move on, or frustrate himself by continuing to try to break down the door until law enforcement arrives. Some 12 school districts in Michigan have installed the device since September 2013, including Horizon Elementary School in Holt, a Lansing bedroom community of 23,000 residents located in Ingham County.

“To me, this is the simplest device I’ve ever seen, but the ramifications are huge,” says Ingham County Sheriff Gene Wriggelsworth. “It gives parents and teachers peace of mind. No one is going to get through that door without beating on it for a long time with something like a sledgehammer. I’m not saying it would be impossible, but it could take something like 10 to 15

To come up with the funding to purchase devices for all doors in the school building, the school and the sheriff’s office came up with an “Adopt A Door” program, asking concerned citizens and civic groups to donate funding. Wriggelsworth hopes that campaign can become an example for other schools in his jurisdiction.

“My wife and I personally adopted two doors. We said ‘We’ve got two grandkids in the building, we’re in,’ ” he says.

Inventor Rob Couturier of nearby Williamston came up with the “prototype” device several years ago when his daughter, after being assaulted during a Thanksgiving Day run at her local high school track, became afraid to stay in an unlocked dorm room at the University of Michigan. His original intent was only to provide a safe environment for his daughter while she attended college, but within days of the Newtown shooting, she called him and said: “Dad, this would help schools. They need it.”

“It looks pretty simple, but a ton of work and a ton of research went into developing it,” Couturier says, explaining that he consulted with local law enforcement and fire inspectors and worked on refining the concept, right down to achieving the right weight and balance to be handled quickly and easily in a stressful situation. He put the device on the market in May 2013 and thus far has installed the device only in Michigan schools, but has traveled to Ohio for discussions with schools there, and is working on plans for expansion.

“I personally don’t care about the money. I only want to make enough money to keep people working on making more of them. My drive comes from thinking about the safety of the faculty and the students,” Couturier says. “I am so moved when I walk into a school and the teachers and staff thank me for creating this.”