Columbus considers key boxes for businesses

Published 10:03pm Monday, January 21, 2013

With the new State Employee Credit Union being constructed in Columbus, council members began the discussion of whether or not the town should require businesses to have key boxes so emergency services can access the buildings.

Columbus Town Council met Jan. 17 and heard from fire chief Bobby Arledge about the possibility.

The key boxes would only be used in times of alarm calls, including for fire or burglary and would allow emergency personnel to enter the building.

Currently in cases of alarms emergency personnel has to locate an emergency contact person to come and unlock a building. A key box would prevent emergency personnel from having to break into doors and windows to access the building during times of alarms.

Council discussed whether or not to require it for only new businesses or for current businesses and which ordinance would include the requirement.

Town manager Jonathan Kanipe said there are currently 146 businesses in town, so requiring key boxes for current businesses would be a pretty high number. He said the town should look at costs and prepare a presentation to give to businesses. He also said he wants to look at what other towns have done in terms of the requirement.

Councilman Ricky McCallister said he would like for Kanipe to work with businesses and get their feedback to see if they are interested.

“I think we should talk to businesses that are here now,” McCallister said. “I’m sure if I had a business I would want someone to protect me if I wasn’t there.”

Kanipe said another thing council may want to consider is requiring the boxes when a business has a new occupancy since a change in business is likely to happen more often than new buildings being constructed.

Key boxes are used throughout the state and are often required by building/zoning inspection offices to ensure and improve accessibility to commercial buildings in the event of an emergency, Kanipe said.

The typical key box is a secure, tamper-proof device with a lock operable only by a fire department master key and containing building entry keys that may be required for access in an emergency.

Before utilization, Kanipe said, a strict policy for maintaining and securing the master key would be in place and policies would be developed to ensure that no tampering would occur with the keys.

Council directed staff to look into the idea more and plans to discuss it further during its February meeting.

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