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Wrightstown may allow responders fast access to commercial buildings


A proposed local law in Wrightstown would require “Knox Boxes” to be installed on all new commercial buildings in the township.

“Knox Boxes” hold building keys for fire departments, emergency medical services and even police to retrieve in emergency situations.

The ordinance, which the Wrightstown Board of Supervisors considered at its public meeting Monday, would mandate the boxes for existing commercial properties when there is new land development that changes the use.

“There is also a provision that would require ‘Knox Boxes’ to be installed within six months of the township conducting the annual fire prevention inspection,” said Supervisor Chair Chester Pogonowski.

The elected three-person board of supervisors, which governs the municipality, approved advertising the ordinance to the public — a procedural step that by law must occur before supervisors can take a final vote on whether or not to green-light the new requirement.

That final vote would happen at an upcoming public meeting.

The ordinance applies only to commercial/institutional buildings. There is not a requirement for residential structures, though Pogonowski noted that there are residential “Knox Box” installations in Wrightstown.

Safety and a desire to minimize damage to buildings are primary impetuses for the proposed ordinance. “Knox Boxes” are generally small, wall-mounted safes on a building’s exterior.

Pogonowski said that the intention in Wrightstown is to ensure first-in fire trucks at emergency calls have access to a key that enables them to open the “Knox Boxes” on commercial buildings — and thereby get the keys for the building within.

“These boxes provide a means for fire department personnel to safely gain access to the building when a fire or water flow alarm is sounding during non-business hours,” Pogonowski said.

He continued: “Firefighters can easily breach a front door during a real fire, but alarm systems pose a different challenge where a hazard may not be easily visible through a window. While the fire company has the ability to pull a door lock or break a window, these are avenues of last resort, as damage is caused to the doors and leaves the building unsecured until the owner arrives.”

According to Pogonowski, a typical “Knox Box” installation costs about $500 but can go up in price depending on how many special features are wanted. Many boxes, he said, are installed with an integrated burglar alarm sensor to notify the alarm company when the box is opened by the fire department.

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