HUDSON — Bill Cushwa calls his creation “a widget,” but others see it as a safety device and an economical solution to helping save lives of students, teachers and others during active-shooter attacks.
The Bearacade safety device is designed to keep interior classrooms and office doors from opening when unwanted shooters are in the building. About 250,000 units have been sold to schools, churches, public and private offices and even four military bases in 48 states and six countries.
“We started because of the bad events happening in schools, but we very quickly realized we were getting inquiries and requests from churches, houses of worship, corporations and even government facilities and social service agencies where they might deal with or feel they are exposed to some difficult situations,” Cushwa said.
A graduate of Western Reserve Academy and the University of Notre Dame, Cushwa has devoted his life to keeping people safe, especially children.
He was director of development and safety at Seton Catholic School in Hudson on Feb. 27, 2012, when a Chardon High School teen pulled out a gun and fatally shot three male students, paralyzed a fourth for life and wounded two others before he was chased down the hall and outside by an assistant football coach.
“We started with schools and obviously looking at our own kids, I thought, 'I’m not going to wait for someone to develop something. I’m going to develop it myself because my kids need protection now,' " he said.
He developed the prototype for the Bearacade about six years ago and founded National School Control Systems in Hudson. He serves as chief executive of the firm and Dave Soulsby is president.
Realizing steel or aluminum weren’t the answer for his product, Cushwa was told by now-retired Hudson Police Chief Dave Robbins that using polymer for its light weight, durability and strength might be the answer.
Cushwa then teamed with Laszeray Technology of North Royalton to manufacture the 2-pound device, which is certified to withstand 4,800 pounds of thrust.
The unit slides onto the underside of a 1¾-inch-thick door and is fastened to the floor against the doorjamb with insertion of a patented stainless-steel pin, which drops into a predrilled small hole in the carpet, wooden or cement floor.
All students, teachers and staff are trained to install the unit in four to eight seconds and get away from the door so nobody is wounded if the gunman tries to shoot his way into the room.
Cushwa said the Bearacade has been tested and certified to withstand shots from 12-gauge shotguns and AK-47 rifles without giving way.
Dozens of schools
The Bearacade units are in dozens and dozens of school districts across Ohio, including Hudson City Schools.
Last year alone, the Bearacade was used in 26 actual events without incident and 11 times in a six-month period at shopping malls, according to the company.
Cheryl Sheatzley, communications director at Hudson City Schools, said the Bearacades have been added to every interior room in the district's six schools for over three years and have been used at least once a quarter as part of monthly lockdown drills.
“We spent a year looking at safety products before we decided to go with the Bearacade because it is easy to use and provides an element of safety that our students from third to 12th grades can put in place," she said. “And Bill is part of our school safety committee. Kudos to him for his concept and concern for students.”
State legislators amended Ohio law to allow use of these and other devices by a staff member or a public or private college or school during an emergency situation or safety drill, Cushwa said. Under state law, the device must require minimal steps to remove it after it has been engaged.
Cushwa provides personal in-service training to his customers.
The cost is $59 each, or $49 per unit when 100 or more are purchased or $42 each for orders of 1,000 or more.
“When we started into this, the phone calls and conversations quickly included churches and other facilities and then came the Jewish community shooting in Pittsburgh at a Jewish synagogue," he said. “Churches are supposed to be open and accommodating, and now they have to think about things that are just sad.
“… Hopefully, [the Bearacade] will just hang on the wall and collect dust like a fire extinguisher that you don’t have to use, but you know how to use it if you need it.”
George W. Davis can be reached at: email@example.com