Warren County commissioners unanimously adopted a new ordinance Monday night that requires certain structures to have a key lock box at or near their main entrance, or other location required by their district fire chief, so that fire departments can gain entry when answering a fire call if the building is locked.

County Attorney Hassan Kingsberry explained that the county fire commission requested that the ordinance be drafted and presented for board approval.

The ordinance, which took effect following its approval, applies to commercial or industrial structures protected by an automatic alarm or suppression system, or structures that are secured in a way that restricts access during an emergency; multi-family residential structures that have restricted access through locked doors and have a common corridor for access to the living units; governmental structures and nursing care facilities; and any building or facility containing a quantity of hazardous materials that would require compliance with Title III of the Superfund Amendment Reauthorization Act. 

All newly constructed structures are subject to the ordinance and must have the key lock box installed and operational prior to receiving an occupancy permit. Existing structures that fall under ordinance requirements have one year to have a key lock box installed and operational.

Fire chiefs will designate the type of key lock box system to be implemented within the jurisdiction of Warren County and have the authority to require all structures to use the designated system. The Knox-Box Rapid Entry System is currently designated.

The owner or operator of a structure required to have a key lock box is required at all times to keep a key or keys in the lock box that will allow for access to the structure and all interior secure areas. The local fire chief is authorized to implement rules and regulations for use of the lock box system.

Violations of the ordinance may result in criminal or civil penalties, including fines or imprisonment, for anyone who owns or operates a structure subject to its requirements.

This ordinance does not apply inside the towns of Macon, Norlina and Warrenton.