Fire department building access is an important part of the Fairfax County Fire & Rescue Department's (FRD) emergency response system--provided building owners maintain the proper inventory of building entry keys in an approved fire department key box. A properly installed approved fire department key box system will eliminate forced entries, thereby avoiding costly and time consuming efforts in gaining access to locked properties or structures during an emergency. Fire department rapid entry during an emergency helps protect both lives and property.
A fire department key box is defined by the Fire Prevention Code as a secure device with a lock operable only by a fire department master key, and containing building entry keys and other keys that may be required for access in an emergency. The fire deparment master key is a limited issue key of special or controlled design to be carried by the fire department which will open approved key boxes on specified properties. Because of the special or controlled design of such keys, only Fairfax County approved key boxes are permitted in Fairfax County an the towns of Clifton, Herndon, and Vienna.
KEY BOX REQUIREMENTS
Access to Structures. In accordance with Section 506.1 of the Fire Prevention Code , where access to or within a structure or an area is restricted because of secured openings or where immediate access is necessary for life-saving or fire-fighting purposes, the fire code official is authorized to require a key box to be installed in an approved location. The key box shall be of an approved type listed in accordance with UL 1037 and shall contain keys to gain necessary access as required by the fire code official. The only exception to the key box listing requirement applies to existing key boxes which are not required to be listed in accordance with UL 1037 unless replaced. An installation permit is not required.
Structures Requiring Key Boxes. In Fairfax County and the towns of Clifton, Herndon, and Vienna, all buildings with the exception of single-family dwellings shall provide a fire department building access system (i.e., key box with the proper inventory of building entry keys) as approved by the Fire Marshal. The types of boxes typically installed include surface-mounted and recessed key boxes, as well as MSDS repository cabinets when required.
Approved Key Boxes. The following brands of fire department key boxes are approved for use in Fairfax County and the towns of Clifton, Herndon, and Vienna:
- Knox-Box® Rapid Entry System by Knox Company - Knox Website
- SupraSafe™ Rapid Entry System by Kidde - SupraSafe Website
KEY BOX INSTALLATION
Buildings & Structures. Fire department key boxes shall be installed in an approved manner in accordance with the following requirements:
- Key boxes must be installed at the primary fire department entrance (main entrance or entrance nearest to the fire control room).
- Key boxes must be visible and accessible.
- Key boxes must be installed 42 inches to 54 inches above finished grade.
- For new or renovated buildings, fire department key boxes must be installed prior to occupancy.
Gates & Barricades. In accordance with Section 503.6.1 of the Fire Prevention Code (as amended by Fairfax County), gates and barricades that are installed across a fire apparatus access road that is normally intended for vehicular traffic should be installed with a fire department access system which has an emergency override fire department master key switch. This will improve fire department response time. This may require that an approved fire department key box be installed at gates or similar barriers that impede fire department apparatus access.
High-Piled Combustible Storage Facilities. Approved fire department key boxes shall be installed on each side of a building required to have fire department building access doors in accordance with SFPC Table 2306.2 of the Fire Prevention Code. Each key box provided under this requirement shall contain three (3) labeled sets of keys used to unlock the fire department building access doors. For more information about these facilities, see High-Piled Combustible Storage Permit Requirements online.
Required Key Boxes. In accordance with Section 506.2 of the Fire Prevention Code (as amended by Fairfax County), the following number and types of keys shall be provided:
- In buildings with Fire Command Centers (Fire Control Rooms), 15 sets of common keys shall be provided for access to building services and systems regulated by Chapter 6 of the Fire Prevention Code, and to all storage, trash and utility rooms, roof access doors, and doors to other secured areas.
- In all other buildings required to provide fire department access, three (3) sets of common keys shall be provided.
- Individual keys shall be clearly labeled as to function and each set of keys shall be individually tagged.
Voluntarily Provided Key Boxes. In accordance with Section 506.2.1 of the Fire Prevention Code (as amended by Fairfax County), where a non-required fire department key box is voluntarily provided, fire department key boxes shall contain one key to access the premises served, and other keys as determined by the owner or occupant. All keys shall be clearly labeled as to function.
MANAGING & UPDATING KEYS
Whenever the lock to a door or point of access is changed or re-keyed, the operator/owner of a building or premises equipped with a fire department key box should immediately provide a new key and notify the local fire station to place the new key in the key box.
If you are not sure which fire station serves your building or premises, you may call Fire & Rescue Department Headquarters at 703-246-2126 during regular business hours to obtain that information.