By Travis Gulbrandson
An ordinance approved by city council members Monday night will make it easier for firefighters to enter certain new structures during emergencies.
The ordinance will require the installation of the Knox Box, a rapid key entry system recommended by the Vermillion Fire Department.
The box itself will be installed near the entry of the buildings, and will contain keys to the facility, maps of the building and emergency contacts.
“By utilizing this box, we’re able to gain access to the building without creating any damage,” said fire chief Shannon Draper.
Facilities covered by the ordinance include:
- New commercial or industrial structures that are secured in a manner that restricts access during an emergency;
- new multifamily residential structures that have restricted access; and
- new governmental structures and nursing care facilities.
Draper said the city buildings already have the boxes, and the Vermillion School District has ordered them.
Buildings that are already standing will not be required to get the Knox Boxes, he added.
“Personally, I would like them on every business, but I do believe that already in discussions with businesses in the community and talking with them about this, there is a great interest in it,” he said.
According to the ordinance, a master key for all exterior and interior locks must be placed inside the box, and no more than two keys are permitted inside without the approval of the fire chief.
If two keys are present, they must be clearly labeled as exterior or interior doors, the ordinance said.
The location of the installation must also be approved by the fire chief prior to being installed.
Although keys to the facilities are stored in the box itself, Draper assured the councilors that the system is secure.
“The only way to access the key is through dispatch via the radio,” he said. “Once the firefighter gets the code from dispatch, they access the key, take the key. …
“It would take a lot to get into this box. I do feel comfortable that this is a secure box,” he said.
When the emergency is over, the firefighter either re-secures the key, or gives it to the manager of the facility.
Draper added that there is a second program related to the Knox Boxes that is not part of the ordinance that involves loaning them to interested residents for temporary use.
“That is where someone may be prone to falls and need our assistance or EMS assistance for lifting purposes,” he said.
The boxes range in price from around $160 to more than $400, Draper said. However, there are no ongoing costs.
“Once it’s mounted, it’s there,” he said.
He added that if any resident or business gets a Knox Box, installation directions are included, although he recommends that they get it professionally installed.
“There are new boxes that are completely recessed. I would not install them myself,” he said.