Knox Boxes available for residential use

By Travis Gulbrandson

The Knox Boxes seen on Vermillion city buildings and some businesses are now available for residential use.

Two residential Knox Boxes have been donated to the Vermillion Fire Department by the Lions Club.

Fire Chief Shannon Draper said the boxes were donated at the request of Police Chief Matt Betzen, also a Lions Club member.

“He and I are colleagues, so in speaking with him, he thought he would take it to their group and discuss it,” Draper said. “They decided it was a good idea, and they went ahead and purchased the two boxes.

“I’m hoping that some other businesses would like to sponsor also,” he said.

Knox Boxes are keyless entry systems that allow firefighters to enter a building during an emergency without causing damage to it.

The keys are stored inside the boxes and accessed by emergency responders via a code they receive over the radio dispatch.

“If the doors are locked and nobody’s (able) to let us in, we would have to force our way in,” Draper said. “This is a way that we can quickly gain access to their house securely, assist them and then re-secure the house.”

Draper said the use of the residential Knox Boxes will be to aid residents who are injured or are critically ill, and will be limited to up to eight weeks due to the low number of boxes owned by the fire department.

Those who are eligible are classified in a number of ways:

  • Individuals who live alone and have existing medical or physical conditions that could prevent them from opening a locked door in the event of an emergency,
  • suffering from a short-term medical conditions,
  • recuperating from a hospital stay, or
  • are awaiting placement in an assisted living or skilled nursing facility.

Unlike the business and city Knox Boxes, which are permanently attached to the buildings, the residential boxes are designed for quick, temporary installation.

“They have a hanger that (hooks) on their front door, so that it stays secure,” Draper said. “When the door is closed, nobody can take it off, but when the door is open, it easily lifts off without any damage to the door.”

Even though the fire department has only two residential Knox Boxes, Draper said interested residents can purchase their own boxes, which retail from about $165 to $195.

For those who use the boxes owned by the fire department, a deposit of $100 will be required.

“That’s just a check that we’ll hold, and then give back to them,” Draper said. “It’s just because the boxes are so expensive that we have to take a deposit.”

Draper said that Vermillion is not the first community in which he’s served that have participated in the business Knox Box program, but it is the first for the residential program.

“It is not a new concept, though,” he said. “There are a lot of communities on the east coast (who participate).”

The Knox Boxes make it a lot easier – and safer – for emergency workers to do their jobs, he said.

“It’s 100 percent easier to gain access to a building without having to force your way in,” Draper said. “We’re always concerned about creating unnecessary damage to a building. When we’re not sure what’s occurring inside a building, you really worry that you’re causing undue damage. But, you still have to get in and look at it.

“So, it makes it so much easier to gain access safely. It’s safe for us, also, because we’re not breaking glass or using tools that we could be injured in the normal use of,” he said.

For more information about the Knox Box program, contact the Vermillion Fire Department at (605) 677-7097.

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