VESTABURG — Rob Couturier has lived a father’s worst nightmare.
His daughter, Brenann, was attacked by an intruder at her high school when she was 17 years old.
Couturier, who resides in Ingham County, recounted the story during a Wednesday afternoon presentation to Vestaburg Community Schools staff about how he personally tracked down his daughter’s attacker and, when he found him, attempted to confront him while he waited for police to arrive. The suspect barricaded himself in an apartment entryway by lying down and stretching his arms and legs out to use his body to keep the door from opening.
This gave Couturier an idea that he thought could revolutionize safety in a school lockdown situation.
“I have the original door with his bootprints right on the door … because the apartment complex made me replace it,” he said with a chuckle.
Since that event eight years ago, Couturier founded The Lockdown Co. with the goal of increasing security not only in school settings but in homes and office buildings as well. The flagship safety product from The Lockdown Co., aptly named the Boot, is a rectangular shaped quarter-inch plate of industrial steel which fits over two steel pegs that are drilled into the ground.
When engaged, the Boot can withstand 16,000 pounds per square inch of pressure which can offer protection from threats on the other side of the door in the event of a dangerous situation such as a violent intruder attack. Once the Boot is engaged, only law enforcement personnel can gain access to the door using a specially designed tool.
For easy access, the plates for the Boot are housed in specially designed boxes which are installed near the door to be secured.
Gary Valentine, a former sergeant for the Greenville Department of Public Safety and the owner of School Com 608 LLC, was in attendance at Wednesday’s presentation to lend his support and endorsement to the Boot. He told school staff members he’s never endorsed a product like this before, but he believes the Boot is a top of the line security measure which can be operated without using fine motor skills.
“This product, you pull it out of the lockbox, drop it into (the slot) and you’re secure,” he said.
Valentine said in a high-pressure situation, adrenaline is running high and it can be difficult to lock a door or secure a knob if people aren’t thinking clearly. With the Boot, the plate is dropped into a slot on the door which guides it over the pegs in the floor to secure the door. This movement, he said, takes seconds and can be done by adults or children.
“I hope … you never have to pull (the plate) out and use it for the reason it’s designed for,” Couturier told staff members.
In order to have the Boot installed on each of the doors in each of the buildings in Vestaburg Community Schools, the district needs to raise $20,000 by March 3.
According to Athletic Director and Dean of Students Matt Walderzak, a few donations have already come in to go toward the project, including a $1,000 donation on Wednesday.
In order to boost donations, the district is offering different incentives for different levels of donation, including passes to sporting events, the opportunity for the names of people and businesses to be displayed on signage in the school district and a 55-inch flat screen television.
Walderzak said he originally balked at the installation cost, but after hearing Couturier’s story and learning more about the product, he decided to try to bring the Boot to Vestaburg.
“That’s a lot of money for our community to come up with,” Walderzak said. “Our staff is each going to try to bring at least two sponsors on their own outside the district. We didn’t want to put the whole burden on this community.”
Superintendent Brandon Hubbard said the hope is “to take a little from a lot and spread it out in that respect so it doesn’t hit any one person.”
Any funds raised beyond the $20,000 mark would still be allocated to purchases to update security for the school district, such as another product from The Lockdown Co. — a highly reflective placard designed to be affixed outside classroom doors to make it easier for law enforcement officers to identify classrooms in a crisis.
Donations can be sent via check made payable to Vestaburg Community Schools, 7188 Avenue B, Vestaburg, MI 48891. Call the school office at (989) 268-5284 for more information.