Fire department key boxes, or emergency key boxes, are small safes that house keys, electronic access cards and, occasionally, floor plans for buildings that may be locked when the fire department arrives. The box, which is secured with a master key that only the fire department owns, allows responding firefighters to gain access to a building without waiting for the owner to arrive and without damaging a door or window to gain entry.
Fire department key boxes are most often used on commercial and institutional buildings that do not have 24-hour maintenance or security staff to respond to alarms. Although it is uncommon, key boxes may also be installed at large multi-family residential complexes. Architects should consult with the building owner and local fire department to determine if a key box is required.
Prior to specifying a fire department key box, the architect should contact the local fire department to determine the local keying requirements of the box. Many fire departments prefer specific manufacturers or box types. Installing the correct box can save the owner the costs of re-keying.
Emergency key boxes are commonly called a Knox Box, however this is a proprietary eponym referring to the key boxes sold by the Knox Company. The key box in the photo above is a Knox Box.