In the early 2000s, at the height of deadly suicide bombings in Israel, entrepreneur Ran Naor thought about establishing a company that would manufacture anti-blast windows and doors.
In Kibbutz Karmia near the border with the Gaza Strip, where Naor lived most of his life, he founded the Ortech Defense Solutions in 2006 — just as the suicide bombing wave was subsiding.
“We thought the next thing would be terror attacks using cars. In that case, having just protective windows and doors wouldn’t be enough. You would need the entire wall to be protected in order to withstand the shockwave,” said Naor to ISRAEL21c.
What Ortech eventually developed was a unique patented composite material containing fiber-reinforced plastic, which protects against blast hits, fragmentation, ballistics and forced entry. These wall panels can be installed internally or externally inside existing buildings.
“We embarked on a series of tests, using controlled explosions,” Naor explains. Some of the tests were conducted in cooperation with the military, which could provide the company with explosives that simulate real-life threats.
“Explosives weighing dozens of kilograms were detonated right next to the panels. Our product withstood that perfectly, protecting people and property inside the room. Everyone came out whole and healthy,” said Naor.
Naor admits there are other companies around the world that are specializing in such products. “But the material they use is steel; so you’re faced with a number of obstacles.”
He explains the main disadvantage of steel-coated rooms is that, like in elevators, cellphone use inside those rooms could be dangerous due to increased microwave radiation exposure.
“An additional problem is condensation from cold to heat [inside steel-protected rooms] that create mold,” he says.
The anticipated wave of car bombings didn’t happen. But what did happen was the Israeli disengagement from Gaza, which led to the Hamas militant group solidifying its power in the Gaza Strip and establishing a rocket-making enterprise there.
In the years that followed, the home front became increasingly exposed to rocket fire from the Palestinian enclave. First the communities bordering the Gaza Strip, and later most of southern Israel.
Israeli law dictates that a protected room must be installed in all residential and industrial constructions. However, the law was adopted only in 1992, meaning all constructions built prior to that year are vulnerable to homeland security threats, as well as earthquakes.
The government has for years been considering legislation that would provide a solution to Israelis living in old buildings, such as funding to construct protective spaces. But so far none of the proposals have passed.
And despite Ortech’s cooperation with the army, the IDF Home Front Command authorized the company’s products for civilian use less than two years ago, after failing to find a suitable solution for residents of unprotected buildings.
Individuals who want to secure a room in their home can expect to pay Ortech $25,000 to $36,000, plus tax, depending on various parameters of the construction, says Naor.
One of Ortech’s customers, an organization called Operation Lifeshield, raises money to fund shelters for Israeli communities lacking adequate protection in their homes.
“The execution is very quick and clean; you don’t even need to leave the house when the team is working.”
In addition to the unique coating, the 15-strong company offers a host of other protective solutions, including drone protection, containers for hazardous material, shielded bunker rooftops and more.
“We are supplying protection to many strategic sites that must continue to operate during emergencies. For example, the country couldn’t be left without electricity during a war,” said Naor.
“We also have special protective spaces for hazardous materials, like ammonia. If there is an ammonia leak, you have to immediately evacuate the surrounding community. We have a solution that has been authorized by the Home Front Command,” he says.
Do Ortech’s products protect against earthquakes?
“In theory, yes. But we haven’t tested it. We have plans to test it in the future.”
Despite being focused mostly on Israel, Naor says the company is eager to work with clients anywhere around the world who are seeking protective space solutions.
Some of Ortech’s clients are not obvious. “For example, you’re a tech company and you have a room full of valuable information in your offices. Normally, you would not get deliberately targeted. But if your offices are situated next to the United States Embassy, for example, you might. If you safeguard that one room, your information is safe [from physical attacks].”
Naor adds that having successfully conducted a series of tests, it also offers services to other companies that wish to test their products and need consultancy.
Produced in association with ISRAEL21c
Edited by Judy J. Rotich and Newsdesk Manager
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