Not wanting firefighters wasting time fumbling through crowded key rings, Esquimalt will require lockboxes to be installed on all commercial and multi-unit residential buildings.
Esquimalt fire trucks carry keys coded to various buildings. But with the increase in multi-unit dwellings, it’s time for a change, Fire Chief Dave Ward said in a report to council.
“Over time and with the increase in building density, the number of keys required on the trucks has increased significantly to the point that valuable response time is being lost while searching for the specific building key,” Ward said.
Once the lock boxes are keyed, firefighters will carry just one key instead of hundreds.
Ward said moving to a lockbox system prevents damage to windows and doors from forced entry when keys cannot be found. It would also allow firefighters to re-secure doors without contacting the building manager or private security personnel.
“Quick entry reduces the potential damage caused by fire or sprinkler activation,” the report says. “In addition, allowing entry for first responders in this manner means that a building occupant would not need to leave the building’s front door unlocked in order to permit access, thereby reducing the entire building security from being compromised.”
Mayor Barb Desjardins said the change makes sense and that the bylaw — which has been given three readings by council — has raised no concerns.
“This is seen as improving liability concerns and risks,” Desjardins said.
“Our fire department right now is carrying around hundreds of keys for individual places so this is a matter of being able to get to a building and being able to get into an entrance without damaging [anything] and being able to respond faster.”
The change is estimated to cost building owners or strata corporations about $520 plus tax.
“We’ve had no one from the public or any input from any of the buildings that would suggest they have anything but support for it,” Desjardins said.
Al Kemp, CEO of the Rental Owners and Managers Society of B.C., said the type of recessed lockbox proposed by the bylaw is common. Keys are often given to fire departments and utility companies.
“The traditional lockbox — the gold-coloured box that’s mounted on the outside of a wall — you can knock that off with a hammer in 10 seconds and you’ve got the key,” Kemp said.
While more secure than some others, there have been issues with the recessed lockboxes.
Last year, the Victoria Fire Department re-keyed 530 downtown lockboxes and reduce the number of master keys it keeps to access downtown commercial buildings after a key went missing and was used in a number of break-ins.
That prompted concern among building owners, Kemp said.
“Some owners said if these aren’t going to be secure within the fire department, to hell with it. They can kick in the door. I’m not going to have my lockbox available anymore,” he said.
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