Knox Boxes

One of my lurkers saw my instagram post about meeting the LaPaz Fire Department at LaPaz Commons Apartments last week. We always offer the local fire department the opportunity to walk through once the framing is in place. This gives them a better understanding of the structure in that worst case scenario of fighting a fire there. One of the things we discussed with the firemen was the location of the Knox Box. My Lurker sent me this picture of a Knox Box he had seen in Grand Rapids, MI. (See right)

Yes, that’s a Knox Box somewhere around 12′ above the ground above the awning. Pretty much inaccessible… I’m guessing this is a case where the City required a Knox Box, but didn’t include location specifications and the building owner didn’t want one and put it there out of spite. But I’m just projecting that scenario. Who knows?

Knox Box placed in an inaccessible location

Most communities set up standards for placement of Knox Boxes. These have to be carefully considered so they have some flexibility. All buildings are different. But as much as possible, you want the box placed in a location that is immediately recognizable and found by emergency personnel, else its intention is defeated. Firefighters in particularly are notorious for bringing their universal key (fire axe) and not hesitating to use it.

Easterday Construction Co., Inc. was responsible for introducing and writing the Key Box requirement in Culver’s Zoning Ordinance, Chapter 6, Section 100. Enforcement has been pretty limited though. We haven’t actually seen one installed on any projects completed by others. (That doesn’t mean there aren’t some out there.) Even with a pretty clear definition, we ended up getting cross-ways with the building commissioner on a project where he chose to interpret the requirements differently than they were written. (He lost. We don’t argue unless we’re right.)

There is more than one benefit to these systems, i.e. 1) limiting property damage from emergency personnel accessing the building by any means possible, 2) speeding up access when the building is extremely secure and 3) giving emergency personnel a place to find pertinent information such as building plans, electrical shutoffs, among others. But the system has to be set up for the municipality to make the Knox Box keying universal and the program must be understood by the emergency personnel it benefits.

We have promoted the use of these systems, but with limited success. We’ll continue to sing their praises, as they are a benefit to public safety.

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