When a fire or burglar alarm goes off, it’s comforting to know emergency personnel are there to respond. That response can be aided with a simple sticker, maybe even a box, as part of a program now being initiated locally.
Time and access are critical components of a successful response, and sometimes a locked door and outdated contact information can mean valuable time not only to firefighters and police officers, but those in harm’s way — or their most precious belongings and livelihood.
To help overcome those potential obstacles, the Clinton Police Department and Clinton Fire Department are partnering on a business ID project in 2013. As part of the volunteer business ID project, those participating in the program will receive an ID number to be posted on their business to help police and fire officials easily identify the appropriate person to contact in case of an emergency during the night.
“We’re hoping in a couple of months we can have this implemented,” said Clinton police Chief Jay Tilley. “We’ll have immediate access. Having updated key holder information, we’ll get a faster response.”
Businesses also will have the option to install a “Knox Box,” which securely stores a key and contact information that only police and fire officials can access during an emergency.
“We fully expect this program to help us communicate more quickly with businesses during after-hours emergencies,” said fire chief Adon Snyder, who said the Knox Box could take that further. “It’s a big benefit to us and takes the burden off the business owner or the key holder as far as burglar alarms or fire alarms after hours, when no one is there and it is locked up. It saves them from having to come down there at 2 o’clock in the morning.”
Sometimes, it is not always an emergency. There may not be a fire or a criminal for that matter, but rather an unsecured door, a false alarm or a broken-out window. When police respond and make a report, it is their job to make sure someone who owns the business, building or serves as a key holder is notified to secure the property or be made aware of a situation.
If the proper contact information is not immediately available or is out of date, that could mean wasted resources on the department’s end, and a headache for the business owner or key holder who is eventually reached to respond in the early-morning hours. With the ID number, possibly also a Knox Box, that is averted.
“Suppose we do have a window broken out or something like that, I have to have a police officer there until someone gets there,” Tilley said. “What has happened is we try to get a hold of (a business owner or key holder) in the past and we can’t get up with them. What we’re trying to do is get all the updated contact information for business owners or key holders locally.”
That way, whether it is an emergency or not, a forceful entry can also be avoided.
“We would not have to break a door or force our way in,” said Snyder. “If you have a key there on-site in a high-security box, the information would be there to reset any alarms.”
Snyder said the fire department regularly visits business owners to update floor plans and contact information. “This program would be an avenue to enhance what we’re already doing,” said Snyder.
Box ‘expands’ locally
Several facilities already participate in the Knox Box program, but public safety officials hope for more participation to improve services for the business community. The boxes come in several sizes and can hold anything from simply a key to alarm pass codes and other essential information.
“There’s 75 business owners that already use them and have for years,” said Snyder. “We’re just trying to extend the awareness to business owners that this is available to them. If they wanted to provide us keys, we would have to have a Knox Box.”
The Knox Box runs from $300 for those that are about 6 inches by 6 inches, and upwards of a couple thousand for much larger ones. Tilley said while some schools, hospital facilities and others have the Knox Boxes, the majority of businesses and various other entities do not.
The awareness piece is at the forefront of the departments’ joint efforts.
By partnering with the Clinton Fire Department, efforts toward contacting businesses can be combined and the comprehensive list of businesses, facilities and other Clinton area entities divided up to complete the task quicker. Tilley said the Clinton-Sampson Chamber of Commerce has also been a great resource in compiling a list of business owners and other facilities, including schools, hospitals, government entities.
The Chamber will be additionally helping in getting the word out about the program.
“We’re going to order about 2,000 (ID) stickers on the initial push to do this,” the police chief said.
The ID number, containing contact information to be placed in a database, would be offered free of charge. The Knox Box would just further assist in emergency response, but would be the choice of the business or entity, to be done at their own cost.
Ideally, Tilley said, businesses would do both. But he said the business ID itself was a good start.
Following an emergency response, and use of the ID number, contact information can be updated if deemed necessary so future response can be done quicker and more efficiently. That could mean a savings of time, money and resources, possibly even property or similar losses. Being able to contact the right person could make the difference.
“If we respond and find out the contact information is outdated, a firefighter or police officer could go by the next day and update the information (for that ID number),” said Tilley. “It keeps a fresh database of names.”
Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 121 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.