According to Total Security Solutions vice president Jim Richards, “It’s rare that you get an architect or a school district—or even a municipality—that asks ‘How long is this project going to take?'”
Architects are often shocked to discover that it’s totally normal for it to take six months to conceive, design, fabricate, and install a bullet proof system. This standard timeline can become a major issue in a school ballistic barrier project, because the school’s year-long schedule leaves a very narrow window for major construction jobs.
Sourcing Bullet Proof Materials Takes Time
As a rule, bullet proof system installations are quick: Many can be done overnight, without a single missed business day. Even large installations usually take under one business week. But that fast installation is proceeded by months spent conceiving and engineering a system, sourcing the materials, and fabricating the system itself.
Material sourcing has a major impact on a bullet proof project timeline. Clients often assume that materials are sitting on the shelf waiting to ship. But that’s rarely the case. For example, if a job calls for 1500 lineal feet of aluminum framing, that aluminum is not sitting in some warehouse; it is going to be extruded for that job. Similarly, almost all door hardware suitable for a bullet proof system is made in a small batch specifically for a given job. These raw materials and components can take six to eight weeks to arrive, and may still need further fabrication before they’re ready to be integrated into the ballistic system.
Timeline of a School Bullet Proofing Project
A normal school bullet resistant project has a six-month timeline:
• EARLY FEBRUARY: The bullet proof company receives a bid request from a school and submits a bid.
• MID-MARCH: The contractor notifies the bullet proof company that the bid has been accepted.
• EARLY APRIL: The bullet proof company sends submittals to contractor and architect. These include drawings and material samples. Over the course of April the bullet proof company and architect will refine the design.
• MAY 1: The bullet proof company receives final approval and a purchase order from the client.
• MAY-JULY: The bullet proof company sources materials (which takes at least three to four weeks), engineers the project (a week long process), and fabricates all the system components (three to five weeks). During this period the bullet proof company coordinates with the contractor to be certain that everything is ready on-site for a July installation. This will include getting a final set of “hard measurements,” since seemingly negligible departures from the approval drawings—even as a little as a quarter inch—can cause major headaches during a bullet proof installation.
• LATE JULY: Installation (a one to four day process).
Planning for the Bullet Proof Project Timeline
Jim sighs when asked about schools planning their renovations: “We just had a bid request come in where bids are due May 9th. There’s just absolutely no way that project can happen before they open the doors for the 2014-2015 school year.” In fact, that project can’t reasonably expect to begin installation before Halloween.
So what are this school’s options? Even drastically limiting the scope of this project—perhaps to a totally minimal “bullet resistant vestibule” checkpoint—isn’t going to get that project wrapped up before kids start heading back to school.
For schools that have gotten a late start, Jim has found it feasible for them to aim for an installation during a scheduled school holiday. Alternately, they can shut down a portion of the building and use an alternate entryway for a few weeks. One way or the other, an installation during the school year is much more logistically challenging for the school, and is going to be disruptive for students and staff. Schools who aren’t already well along in the process with a bullet proof company need to start working on an alternate plan today.
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