Key lock system ordinance for businesses considered by Hampton officials

Sunday, November 3, 2019 | 12:01 AM

An ordinance is being considered for businesses to purchase a key lock box, which will give emergency responders access to keys for easy entry into a building.

Both of Hampton’s volunteer fire departments are supportive of this system, which will provide access to a building that is secured or difficult to gain entry due to being either unoccupied or the occupants unable to respond.

The proposed ordinance was introduced in August and states the key lock box, most likely utilizing the brand KnoxBox, will be installed on the exterior of the structure to aid the Hampton Township Volunteer Fire Departments in gaining access to or within a structure when responding to calls for an emergency service.

Brian Hilliard, chief at the Hampton Volunteer Fire Department No. 1, said in an emergency there are times it could take more than an hour for a person to arrive with a key for them to gain entry if the business or structure is closed.

“This could pose a big problem,” said Hilliard, who presented information regarding the system at a recent council meeting.

Specifically, the small wall mounted safe holds building keys for fire departments, emergency medical services and sometimes police to retrieve in emergency situations.

A KnoxBox secures a key to a property that only can be accessed by the person authorized to do so. The fire department can hold master keys to all boxes within the township so that they can quickly enter buildings without having to force entry or find individual keys.

This ordinance would be applied to commercial or industrial structures, schools, and certain multi-residential structures, according to the ordinance.

Also, no Fire Department personnel shall carry a KnoxBox key but will be located within a fire apparatus location.

Hilliard said they cost approximately $300 per unit.

The ordinance is written presently that this cost would be paid by the business owner.

Benefits of the system minimizes forced entry damage and protects your property, said Chuck Kovac, the township’s fire marshall/code enforcement oOfficer, who presented information to the council last month.

Hilliard also said the KnoxBox records who enters the box so it puts liability on the KnoxBox company.

This is also important for fire departments who may be called into a false alarm incident. Without access, a first responder may have to tear down a door at the owner’s expense. But with a KnoxBox, they can just open the box and get a key to a building, according to Kovac.

If a business owner has a code not a key, the box can hold the code combination, said Kovac. He approached several area businesses and none of the owners said they wouldn’t do it.

Hampton Township Councilperson Bethany Blackburn said she felt that the $300 could put a burden on a business owner and whether it was necessary to make it an ordinance or just an option.

“If you’re a small business. It’s another cost,” said Blackburn.

She said she’s not suggesting it’s not a good idea but whether it should be voluntary.

“I’m on the fence on why it has to be mandated,” she said.

Hilliard said if a business is located near or with other businesses, such as a mall setting, and they chose not to use one, it could endanger the rest of the businesses if there was a fire. Kovac said other local municipalities also have an ordinance for a key lock system.

Maureen Lah, a business owner in Hampton, said she’d rather not be made to purchase a Knox Box but will take the chances.

“I think that should be my decision,” said Lah.

Council has decided to table making a decision on the KnoxBox ordinance until Nov. 20, said Council vice president Dr. Carolynn Johnson.