In December, the Yadkin County Board of Commissioners approved an ordinance for a rapid key entry system which will allow for a quicker response to fire calls at some local businesses. The new system involves a device known as a Knox Box, a small and nearly indestructible box located on the outside of a business that will house keys to enter the building so firefighters can get inside quickly without having to wait for a key holder to arrive or cause damage to the property by breaking down doors.
The new Agriculture and Education Building at the Yadkin Center of Surry Community College in Yadkinville was one of the first to install a Knox Box.
“I think it’s a wonderful project that the county has taken on. I think it’ll make us much safer and cut costs when it comes to accessing the building. We won’t have the same amount of damage we would have otherwise. I think it’s a great thing for the county to have,” said Yadkin Center Director Dr. Wayne Matthews.
Not all businesses are required by the new ordinance to install a Knox Box, though they may do so by choice. Businesses that are required under the ordinance to installed the rapid key entry system are those with a sprinkler system, monitored fire alarm or that house or dispense hazardous materials.
Since the ordinance passed late last year, emergency officials have been working with businesses to get the Knox Boxes installed. Fire Marshal Ricky Leonard said about 12 to 14 boxes have been installed so far with another 20 businesses which are working to order their boxes.
The new system was put in place to not only better protect area businesses from fire or other forms of damage,but also to ensure a smoother response from firefighters.
Leonard said firefighters are often in a lose/lose situation when responding to a fire alarm at a business location. When an alarm is going off inside a business, the firefighters arrive and may come across multiple scenarios. Leonard said that fires can double in size every 30 seconds, with a large building, however, it’s possible that responders may arrive and flames or smoke are not yet visible from the outside. They then have several options, they can wait for the business owner or other key holder to arrive and let them into the building, or they break down the door.
Leonard said most commercial doors are at least $2,000. In the case of false alarms, which is fairly common, especially during thunderstorms, damage has been caused to the property that could have been avoided. A third scenario, is that a sprinkler system could have been triggered in error which could cause flooding and water damage in a building.
With the Knox Box system, area fire departments have trusted personnel with secure codes that allow them access to a key to open the box and then access the building’s keys so they can more quickly assess whether there is an active fire, false alarm or faulty sprinkler system that needs to be shut off.
Gentry Family Funeral Service in Yadkinville is another business that has recently had a Knox Box installed.
“It gives another level of comfort from the blanket of security that the fire department and our law enforcement provide to us. It gives me some peace to know that they’re going to better efficiently be able to do what they’re trained to do. Peace of mind is the greatest thing,” David Gentry said.
Emergency Services Director Keith Vestal and Leonard said they were pleased to get this new system in place as it puts Yadkin County up to speed with emergency protocols that are already common in other places.
Though not all businesses are required to have a Knox Box installed, Leonard said it is an option for businesses which would like to install one for quicker access for fire personnel in case of emergency. Knox Boxes are also available for residential homes. Vestal said a residential Knox Box would be particularly useful for the elderly as it would allow a quicker response without any property damage in case responders need to enter a home where the person may have fallen or have some other health condition that prevents them from coming to the door.
To learn more about the Knox Boxes, contact the Yadkin County Fire Marshal’s office at 336-679-4231.
Kitsey Burns Harrison may be reached at 336-679-2341 or on Twitter or Instagram @RippleReporterK.