Fire Department offers key box program for residents

By: Eric Czarnik | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published March 29, 2016

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Sterling Heights residents who want the Fire Department to have an easier time reaching them now have a key solution.

This month, the Sterling Heights Fire Department started publicizing a voluntary residential lock box initiative for residents that can help the Fire Department enter homes in emergency situations.

The program’s purpose is to create a uniform rapid entry system to minimize forced entries and the resulting damage during emergencies. In January, the Sterling Heights City Council voted to enact a system in which many businesses will buy and acquire key boxes from Knox Co. through a commercial lock box program.

But according to Sterling Heights Fire Chief Chris Martin, a tandem — but voluntary — program is also being opened to homeowners.

He said the Fire Department has already provided five or six key boxes to residents within a couple of days’ time, and he said people have already been calling the department and expressing interest.

“Without a doubt I think it will be the elderly,” Martin said. “They are the ones that call when they slip or fall and can’t get up, and they’re the ones who can’t get to the door if they’re living alone.”

According to Martin, the key boxes are secured onto buildings and can contain things like entrance keys, alarm codes and contact info. The boxes can only be opened with a Fire Department master key that is stored in a Fire Department vehicle and only is released by entering a firefighter’s personal identification number. The security system tracks data while the master key is removed.

Martin said the pricing on residential key boxes varies. A base model costs roughly $35, and premium models, or boxes that are installed into a home’s brickwork, cost more, he said.

As part of a loaner program for residents who are otherwise unable to get a box, Dino Juncevic from Utica Van Dyke Towing Co. recently volunteered to buy 30 boxes, the Fire Department said. Martin said the Fire Department is hoping for more donors.

Sterling Heights Fire Lt. Chris Slezak, who manages the residential key box program, said the department had a lot of inquiries about emergency entry solutions before it started this residential program.

“There are other fire departments throughout the country that have a residential lock box program,” he said. “So we decided to start our own so we had some consistency.”

Slezak said the program is important for people who have medical emergencies because a key box can prevent firefighters from having to damage a home’s door or window. Upon accessing a house key, firefighters can also lock up the home after the person gets medical transport to a hospital, he said.

He said the Fire Department’s master key system is electronically secure.

“We have a key retention system that when we remove the (master) key ... our code indicates who took the key and how long it was gone,” Slezak said. “There’s a check and balance with that key.”

Learn more about the Sterling Heights Fire Department by visiting or by calling (586) 446-2950. Learn more about Knox Co. by visiting