JENNINGS — For more than 17 years Safe Haven Enterprises has designed and built products to protect lives and property from both disasters and attacks.
The Jennings-based company is an industry leader in the design and construction of forced-entry/ballistic and blast-resistant custom steel-fabricated modular buildings, doors, walls, louvers and windows. Its clients include the military, government, and oil and gas companies. “More people are becoming aware of our products, and we have seen more of a need for our products, especially the modular buildings and doors, whether it be here or New York,” said Safe Haven CEO Alta Baker. The company was the first to take a blast-resistant building into the Gulf of Mexico.
Its latest product is a defensive fighting position unit that will stop .50-caliber armor-piercing bullets. The buildings, which include ballistic-resistant windows and gun ports, are used at border crossings and as guard stations at military facilities and high-security compounds. The units were fabricated in 15 days at the Jennings facility, located in an old garment factory off U.S. 90, just west of the city. “Our workforce is local, and we buy local materials whenever possible,” Baker said. “In the beginning we tested the ballistic integrity of many of its products at local gun ranges.”
A former Calcasieu Parish teacher, Baker got into the fabrication of emergency shelters almost by accident after taking over her father’s construction business after his death.
“I quit the passion of my life (teaching) and stepped into the construction business,” she said. “I learned very quickly.”
She got the idea for the safety structures while visiting a petrochemical site. During the visit, the plant had a chlorine gas release. “The nearest safe haven was 20 minutes away,” she said. Six months later she found herself seeking shelter from a water spout while visiting another job site in Texas. “They told us to run, then told us the nearest safe haven was a lunch tent,” she said.
The group ended up seeking shelter inside the structural piping of a live benzene unit and tied off until the winds died down. “For months after that I kept telling my husband, John, I wanted to build a safe structure,” she said. “He finally told me to either design the building I wanted or retire so he could get some sleep.”
The result was Safe Haven Enterprises in Jennings. The company has expanded its production capacity with a facility in Dubai in partnership with FabTech Group International.
According to the company’s website, Safe Haven’s products, the manufacturing of which is overseen by personnel with “top secret” U.S. clearance, have been field tested since 2003 and have saved the lives of people in dangerous environments, including direct RPG attacks, petrochemical plant explosions and hurricane-strength weather conditions.
In June 2013, a blast-resistant modular building was used as a “safe room” for 10 workers who stayed behind after an explosion at the Williams Olefins facility in Geismar. The men were safe and able to shut down the facility while performing controlled burns, Baker said. Safe Haven products can be found in many U.S. embassies, including those in Paris, Sanaa, Yemen, Jerusalem and Beirut, consulates, government facilities and classified locations worldwide. Its forced-entry/ballistic-resistant and blast-resistant modular buildings have been tested under fire in Iraq, as well as in chemical plant explosions in the U.S. and Canada.
It has provided doors in tunnels to protect pumps in New York prior to Hurricane Sandy, and its buildings house the 911 center in Calcasieu Parish and were used to house the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ command center during Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans.
Other buildings have served as command centers, living quarters, office complexes, detention facilities and portable bunkers. “The need for safety and security has reached heightened levels worldwide,” Baker said. “We’re seeing the magnitude of what anybody can do, and we are realizing we are all vulnerable,” she said. “We’re moving into other areas with products, and we’re seeing a need for a lot more custom designs for our buildings and doors.” Most of the buildings can be set up quickly and are stackable or interconnecting, she said.