Device could assist firefighters

Kevin Wilson

The Portales Fire Department is encouraging business and home owners to think inside the box.
The Knox Box is a small, metal mini-safe that is placed on the exterior of a building. It has space for keys, passwords or other devices that can provide access into a building and is accessible only by a master key provided emergency workers.
Portales Fire Marshall Mike Running said the department and local volunteers have been hard at work trying to promote the box’s benefits, which include quicker response times and fewer inconveniences for business owners.
Running said that under current circumstances, an early-morning fire alarm can present many difficulties. If there are signs of smoke, the department would be forced to break a door to enter the building, causing damage beyond that caused by the fire.
If there are no signs of a fire, Running said the department may still need to contact the owner in order to get the building unlocked.
“Not only is it waking you (the business owner) up out of bed,” Running said, “but that’s a time delay as well.”
The box, Running said, solves both of those problems in a simple way.
The fire department would own a master key for each box in its jurisdiction, and Running said only five people have authorization to take a master key out of the department office — Running, Fire Chief Steve Beaty and three battalion chiefs.
“The fewer people that have access,” Running said, “the better.”
Running said Portales fire and police officials would have to pay $700 to start the program. Meanwhile, the business or home owner would have to purchase their own box — about $180 for a business owner and $140 for a home owner.
The boxes may be purchased through the fire department or online at
www.knoxbox.com.
“(People) like the idea,” Running said, “but they don’t like the idea of spending the money.”
One way to save, Running said, is for business owners in the same neighborhood to share a box.
Danny Woodward, owner of Woody’s Jewelry, said he has ordered a 10-key unit and he plans to see if neighboring businesses want to take part.
David Hunton, owner of Hunton Insurance Inc., also likes that idea.
“The boxes seemed like they were really sturdy and I think they would probably be secure. You worry about the security part, but the only key is with the fire department.”