Bullet resistant panels and glass are nearly unique, in that the product is so familiar–we’ve all seen it, touched it, and know what it does–but, in contrast to a car, flat-panel TV, or college education, few of us have seen the price tag.
Total Security Solutions vice president Jim Richards admits, “it’s really hard when you get that initial call. You’d be surprised by the number of people that have no idea what this costs,” or how quickly customizations can add up. “That’s the challenge–informing the customer–more than selling: What are they truly looking for? Do they have a fixed budget? We’re not going to recommend a $10,000 solution if you only have $2,000 to spend.”
A Broad Price Range
It doesn’t help that the price range for a bulletproof system is wide: On one end, a tidy little transaction window with a counter and currency tray–which ships as a single piece and can be installed by any competent carpenter–might run as little as $900. On the other end, a custom design for a Federal Reserve bank in a major US city, with 4 doors, 22 windows, yards of bullet-resistant fiberglass panels, and custom hardware can easily run upwards of $160,000.
Jim trains his sales staff to be prepared for sticker shock. “A cost is a cost; we let our salesman know that we don’t have anything to hide: you give us what your requirements are, and we’ll tell you what the costs are.”
Assessing those costs means answering three questions:
- What level of protection do you need?
- How big of an area are you trying to secure?
- What functionality do you need?
Obviously, Level 1 or 2 bulletproof systems–capable of stopping three shots from a 9mm or .357 Magnum pistol, respectively–can use thinner, lighter bullet-resistant panels and glass than a Level 8 system, which relies on heavier, thicker layers of glass-clad polycarbonate. The simple cost of materials will have a major impact on the total cost of a system.
A simple Level 1 three-foot by three-foot wall-mounted walk-up window will typically cost around $1500, including the pre-fabricated window and bullet-resistant panels for the wall. But if you add an ADA-compliant counter, stainless-steel frame, electronic talk-thru, or decide to expand that window, the system can quickly creep up to $5000. Jim points out that “it’s not uncommon these days for some specialized locks to run $500 to $1000 for the hardware alone.”
Any business exploring bullet-resistant options is already thinking in terms of loss prevention and risk analysis, balancing the cost of security (both out of pocket and in its impact on functionality) against the likelihood of an attempted armed robbery. “They know better than we do what their security risks are.”
It does little good to invest in protecting your shop if a sloppily designed system will result in greatly reduced business. For example, Jim notes that there is a big difference between day-time and night-time use in gas stations and convenience stores. Daring daylight robberies are very rare, and night-time assaults all too common. During those busy daytime hours, clerks need to quickly help customers and complete transactions. This can be painfully slow if a credit card and receipt need to make several trips through a cash drawer. So, owners often opt for sliding bulletproof windows that can be closed down and locked at 7 PM, when business slows and robberies become more likely, and then opened back up at 5 AM to meet the morning rush. This more complicated hardware might bump the price of the installation up by as much as 10 percent, but the increased transaction speed of a well-designed and flexible system is priceless.