BY KRISTEN BUCKLES
When there is a fire or other emergency, getting through a locked doorway is often a matter of emergency personnel having to break a lock or window, or even break down the door.
The Tusculum Planning Commission is currently considering an alternative to forced entry through the possible implementation of the Knox-Box Rapid Entry System, which provides non-destructive emergency access to commercial and residential property.
This system is already a part of Greeneville's Fire Code and in place at 60 to 70 locations within the town, according to Greeneville Fire Marshal Alan Shipley.
Shipley described Greeneville's use of the system and answered questions from the commission during Tuesday's meeting at the request of member Alan Corley, who also serves as a safety officer with the Tusculum Fire Department.
"These have been very beneficial to us," Shipley explained.
He described the system, which includes a vault-like box that is either wall mounted or inset into the home, office or commercial building.
The owner places a set of keys and any pertinent information, such as medical needs or hazardous materials, inside the box.
Five of the Greeneville Fire Department's emergency vehicles have similar boxes mounted on them, Shipley said. These boxes contain the master key for any Knox-Box within their jurisdiction.
Master keys only work for boxes within a fire department's municipality and accessing them prompts a strobe light on the box to flash until such a time as the key is returned to the box, he added.
Opening the master key box requires a pin code that will record who accessed it and for how long, Shipley added.
In addition, the Greeneville Fire Department calls 911 to report any access of a Knox-Box, he said.
"These are some aspects that have really been good," Shipley said, noting that forced entry can be costly.
Chairman Robert Bird questioned if copies can be made of the master key, as well as what happens if one is lost.
Shipley explained that only the Knox Company can create a copy of the key and said that some boxes are connected to alarm systems to know when they are accessed.
Different types of boxes are also available for access by police or EMS, he added.
He also assured the commission that the boxes are "pretty tough" and would be highly difficult to get into even if torn off a building.
Moreover, he said the Knox Company is very restrictive in providing extra keys or information.
"What are we supposed to do as a municipality to adopt something like that?" Mayor John Foster questioned.
Planner Cherith Marshall explained that this would be a part of Tusculum's Fire Code, establishing which businesses may be mandated to pay the one-time expense. She and the commission agreed it should not be mandated for residential use.
No one at the meeting expressed any familiarity with the city's fire code or if any discussion had every been made of such a code.
Marshall agreed to look into the matter as the commission continues to explore the possibilities associated with the Knox-Boxes.
Bird also questioned the financial investment that would be required for the Tusculum Volunteer Fire Department.
Corley said this would be about $525 per master-key box.
"We would probably need at least two," he said.
First, however, he agreed that the commission needs to study what fire code is currently in place for the city before continuing the Knox-Box discussion.
PAINTING, STREET LIGHTS
In other business, Foster announced that the painting and street light installation at the Hickory Ridge subdivision is now complete.
The city had issued a letter of credit in Feb. 2011 to the subdivision developers that specified the final layer of backtop in a section of the subdivision be put in by May 31, but this did not happen.
"That's all been taken care of," Foster said, explaining that the city did not have to step in to take bids to complete the project as the Board of Mayor and Aldermen had approved earlier this year after the project went into foreclosure.
The property is now in the hands of Greeneville Federal Bank and was successfully completed, he said.