Should fire department lock boxes be mandatory for all commercial businesses and some apartment buildings?
That was the question under review by McMinnville officials during Tuesday night’s Building and Grounds Committee to discuss changes and adoption of new building codes.
McMinnville Zoning Department director Nolan Ming says the state is requiring the city to review and update all its code requirements and he’s recommending the city enforce its fire department lock box requirement.
“It’s basically a box installed on the outside of the building that the fire department has a master key to,” said Ming. “In that box is a key to the building. If there were a fire and they needed to get in, they could use that rather than breaking a door or window.”
The boxes are also called Knox boxes due to the first one being invented by Knox Company in 1975. Today, the company provides a variety of products for over 11,500 departments and governmental agencies throughout the U.S.
While the fire department would hold the master key, the rapid entry lock boxes could also be a benefit if emergency medical services or the police department need to access the building during emergency situations.
Ming said the requirement is already in the city code but not being enforced and he recommended existing buildings be given one year to become compliant.
Aldermen Mike Neal asked about security.
“How secure is this box? If someone gets into the box and gets into someone’s business, who’s going to be the one responsible?”
McMinnville Fire Chief Kendall Mayfield stated, “The box is like a little safe. It comes with an anchor to mount it to the wall, or whatever you want to mount it to. We are the only ones with a key. We’ve got a log. Every time we go into your business, we have to log it.”
Neal questioned which city department – codes or fire – is responsible if someone manages to jerk the lock box from the building and burglarize the business.
“If you are making this a requirement, do I come see you or you if someone manages to gain access into my building because of the lock box,” said Neal as he pointed once to Mayfield and once to Ming. “I have a problem with this being mandatory.”
Mayfield said he has seen the process to install lock boxes on buildings and he doubts that removal is possible, but he did bring laughter to a tense discussion by offering to continue with the traditional way of entry.
“Let me say this, do you want us to tear up a $2,000 door to get into your business or take a little key, unlock it and walk in,” said Mayfield “Hey, we don’t have a problem tearing people’s buildings up. We love to tear stuff up. We’ve got the tools to do it.”
The lock box requirement was removed.
Committee members approved presenting the city’s Municipal Code to the Board of Mayor and Alderman for adoption.