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Winsted police and fire depts. encourage a town lock box system

October 20, 2008

By Linda Scherer
Staff Writer

WINSTED, MN – Combining its efforts, the Winsted Police Department and the Winsted Fire Department are offering the City of Winsted a solution to the growing problem of emergency personnel having to handle too many keys.

“We are starting to get flooded by people who say, ‘we would like you to have our key in case of an emergency,’” Police Chief Mike Henrich said. “And Linden Wood Apartments have their own lock box, and now AAA Galvanizing has their own lock box. Where does it end? Now I have a ring of keys and I have to figure out how to get into each building.”

Fire Chief Chad Engel had heard of other communities using an entry key lock box system and did some research finding the towns of Watertown and Lester Prairie were very satisfied with the system.

Henrich liked the idea, as well, and the two made a presentation to the Winsted Chamber of Commerce where the idea was well-received.

A key entry lock box system uses one master key to unlock a machined metal box that is very difficult to break into. The box is placed on the outside of a building and inside the box is the key(s) to the building.

The master key will be kept in lock boxes installed in the squad cars, and the fire department will secure the key in a lock box in one of the rescue vehicles. These boxes will be opened by a combination lock.

If the fire department were to get called out because of a fire alarm for a building, it would not have to wait for someone with a key to get in, or have to break a door down to find out if the fire alarm is false.

The entry key lock box will be used by the police department, too, for calls where it is imperative for the officers to check on the wellbeing of an individual(s).

“I have broken down two or three doors in my career, and calls for our service has gone up. We see the problems are only going to grow,” Henrich said.

Engel and Henrich will be meeting with all of the businesses in Winsted to talk with them about the advantages of having an entry key lock box.

Apartment owners are strongly encouraged to get a lock box. Anyone who is away from their home for long periods of time, either on business or vacations, might want to consider a lock box, too.

There is no profit being made by the fire department or the police department for selling or installing a lock box.

The box is to be ordered from the DAMA Company which is in Plymouth. Anyone who would like an application to order an entry key lock box should contact Engel or Henrich, or someone in either of their departments.

An application to purchase an entry lock box must be signed by either Engel or Henrich before being sent in.

When the property owner receives the box it will be open. It is up to the property owner to make sure the box is installed correctly which might mean hiring someone to mount the box properly.

Once the box is mounted, either Engel or Henrich must be present to lock it.

The price of a regular lock box is $112, and $191 if the property owner wants to have a tamper switch hooked into an existing alarm.

“The tamper switch will automatically set off an alarm when the box is opened, letting the security company know that the box has been opened,” Engel said.

“We are asking to have the boxes installed at 5 feet, centered,” Engel said.

The height of five feet was chosen because it keeps small kids from grabbing at the box and there are different sized officers and firefighters who should be able to access the box easily.

The boxes are to be installed next to the main entrance of the building or home.

Henrich made it clear that the lock box is the only way people will be able to have emergency personnel have entry to their home or business in the future.

“We are taking the stance, if you want us to have your key, you need to have the lock box,” Henrich said. “We are not using separate keys anymore. There is no ordinance. I’m just telling you as chief, we are not taking that responsibility any more, and I think it is pretty fair to say the same for the fire department. If you want us to have your key, you will have to get the lock box.”

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