ADA – One key to protecting people and property from fire-related damage resides in a lock box, Ada city officials say.

Ada City Council approved the “lock box ordinance” at its meeting February 6. The ordinance requires owners of a variety of buildings within city limits to install a lock box in which keys to the building would be stored.

The ordinance was enacted because the City of Ada adopted the 2003 International Fire Code which advocates the installation of lock boxes.

The lock box ordinance will eliminate the delay firefighters currently experience awaiting owner-granted access to the building. Current procedure states that unless smoke and/or flames are visible, firefighters must wait until the “key holder” arrives to grant them access to the building.

City officials say a delay in the fire department gaining entry reduces occupants’ potential for survival in a fire and increases the likelihood of substantial property damage. Firefighter safety and survival may also be compromised. A delay in providing prompt pre-hospital care to the sick and injured as a result of a locked building may also have a negative impact on patient recovery.

“There is often a delay at buildings with alarm systems,” said Ada Fire Marshal Mitch Turpin. “Some of those alarm systems are very sensitive and might pick up something like a candle left burning or a smoldering, but those things can turn progressively worse very quickly. We can’t treat an alarm like a false alarm. We have to find out for sure.”

Turpin added that the key holder might be as much as 15 to 30 minutes away when the emergency call is made and the dash to bring the key might occur under heightened anxiety, perhaps increasing the chances of a traffic accident.

The lock box ordinance also allows quick, emergency access to a building without the necessity of breaking or damaging part of the structure to gain entry. This obviously has the potential to save the building owner time and money in the way of repairs.

The lock box ordinance primarily targets new structures as well as existing ones that maintain alarm systems but aren’t open 24 hours a day. Turpin said he would determine which existing structures require lock boxes on a case-by-case basis.

“With the recent changes in fire codes, we’re going to see these kinds of preventive measures more and more,” Turpin said.

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