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- Technology Areas
Armor manufacturer Hardwire LLC has provided the Worcester County government with dozens of bulletproof clipboards and shields for use in public buildings in the event of an attack by an armed assailant.
“We have now made our commissioners the safest commissioners,” said Hardwire CEO George Tunis, giving each member their own bulletproof clipboard at a June 3 meeting. “It’s a bullet subtraction. We’re taking bullets out of the equation. We’re giving America a chance to fight back.”
The bulk order includes 61 clipboards and 33 shields. Of the shields, 14 are heavy-duty and are designed to stop automatic assault rifle rounds at point-blank range.
The shields will be distributed to employees in the county’s main government office building, county courthouses and the State’s Attorney’s Office, said spokeswoman Kim Moses. The armor is valued at $24,000, but the county paid $12,000 because Hardwire offered a 50 percent discount.
“We’re really blessed to have you in Worcester County,” said Commissioner Judy Boggs. “We never want you to forget that. I brag about you all the time. We’re so proud. Hardwire, in my opinion, is the shining star of Worcester County, and puts us on the cusp of really bringing in other organization, other company, manufacturing.”
After providing bulletproof whiteboard shields to school resource officers in Worcester County public schools, Tunis said the company looked more broadly at the other county facilities, and saw a layer of protection that included just armed guards and metal detectors.
Hardwire decided to offer the bulletproof shields at a discount to protect “high-value assets” like elected officials and “places we know tempers are running high.”
The company’s state-of-the-art armor is comprised of hundreds of micro-thin layers of a very durable synthetic polymer called Dyneema. Heat and millions of pounds of pressure are used to compress hundreds of layers of spun Dyneema fabric. The result is a composite material that's eight times lighter than steel, twice as bullet-resistant as Kevlar and floats in water.
With American military efforts dialed back in Iraq and Afghanistan, demand for Pocomoke City-based Hardwire’s products in combat zones has been drying up. The company had to pivot, and found an entry into the domestic market with bulletproof whiteboards.
Tunis said he was inspired to create the product specifically with public schools in mind after the 2012 massacre by an armed gunman at Sandy Hook Elementary.
“We’ve been through the upturn of a war and now things have downturned. At the same time, we can expect some of that is going to come back home,” he said. “It’s a peace dividend coming out of a war effort.”
In place at Perdue stadium
Locally, Hardwire already has expanded with its products to one public place: Arthur W. Perdue Stadium, home of the Delmarva Shorebirds. Tunis said there are 52 pieces of armor in the stadium, magnetically attached to beams and disguised as advertisements for local businesses. In an attack, they would come right down off the beams to offer protection.
“The advertising is where we see just an incredible benefit for this product. It’s armor in its emergency role, but in its everyday role, it’s to carry a message,” he said.
When asked whether having shields mounted in a stadium may spook the public about the threat of an attack, Tuins didn’t miss a beat.
“No more than having fire extinguishers would,” he said
In fact, Tunis wants his shields and clipboards to one day be as ubiquitous in public places as fire extinguishers.
He said decades ago, before modern fire codes, “we used to have a bad fire problem,” he said. “Now we have a bad gunfire problem. And that gunfire problem is a $33 billion industry. I don’t think it’s probably going to stop.”
Hardwire is next working on detachable vehicle armor to protect police cars the same way it protects armored military vehicles in Iraq.
The armor can be custom-molded to police vehicles, like a Chevy Tahoe or Dodge Challenger. It attaches to the vehicle surface with very strong magnets. In an emergency, the armor can be pulled off and used as a mobile shield. Tunis said instead of spending $150,000 to armor a car, it instead would cost close to $4,000 per vehicle.