Knox-Box will be voluntary in Hampton Township

Friday, November 22, 2019 | 12:01 AM

The proposed ordinance requiring businesses to purchase a Knox-Box was rejected 4-1 by Hampton Township Council, with council President Michael Peters voting in favor.

The key lockbox, most likely utilizing the Knox-Box brand, is a small, wall-mounted safe that holds building keys for fire departments, emergency medical services and sometimes police to retrieve in emergency situations. The key lockbox would be installed on the exterior of the structure to aid the Hampton Township Volunteer Fire Departments in gaining access to a structure when responding to calls for emergency services.

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

Both of Hampton’s volunteer fire chiefs recommended the ordinance.

However, business owners would have to purchase their own lockbox, which is estimated at $300, according to the discussion at last month’s presentation.

Council member Bethany Blackburn felt it should be voluntary participation instead of required through an ordinance, as it could put a financial burden on smaller business owners. She also said she’d like more data on who would use it.

“I think it’s a good idea, but a lot of benefits could be derived by just inviting people to participate,” Blackburn said.

Peters said it was a difficult decision as he understood fellow council members’ view of not burdening businesses with additional costs.

However, he looked at it more as an issue that’s been asked to be addressed by volunteer fire chiefs based on their concern for their safety and the benefits provided to businesses of not having to have a door forcibly opened.

“I see it more from a public safety side than a burden to the business,” Peters said.

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

If a business owner has a code but not a key, the box can hold the code combination, Chuck Kovac, the township’s fire marshall/code enforcement officer, said at the November council meeting.

However, as it was not passed by council, Peters suggested that since Hampton Township adopted the National Fire Protection Association code, they can establish a voluntary fire code, asking businesses to participate on a voluntary basis.

Blackburn and Richard Dunlap supported the idea.

“I’m in favor of voluntary approach first,” Dunlap said.

Township Manager Christopher Lochner said they can initiate the voluntary code at the beginning of next year. Then, in approximately six months, they’ll review how many businesses participated in installing a Knox-Box.

Hampton council also tabled voting on both the enactment of a new stormwater fee ordinance and on the adoption of a stormwater fee credit manual until the next council meeting at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 4 at council chambers on McCully Road.

The meeting will also include a presentation of the proposed 2020 township budget.