Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Iowa City's Ordinance Making Apartment Keys Available to Emergency Crews Faces Backlash

An Iowa city has passed an ordinance requiring hundreds of commercial buildings and apartment complexes to literally leave the keys outside in case of an emergency, allowing quicker access to first responders but potentially to those up to no good, as well.

The Cedar Falls City Council voted 6-1 on Monday to expand an existing 2004 ordinance that required lock boxes containing keys at buildings with six or more units and commercial buildings with sprinkler system or unsupervised alarms. The new ordinance, which can become law with a signature by Mayor Jon Crews, expands the requirement to apartment buildings with just three or more units.

Nick Taiber, the lone council member to oppose the ordinance, told the issue has led to allegations of overreaching bureaucracy and constitutional concerns. He said he has yet to see a "strong case" for the benefits of requiring the safe-like boxes located on the outside of buildings so fire officials, with a master key, can gain entry during emergencies. With at least 841 commercial properties in Cedar Falls, Taiber estimates the cost of expanding the ordinance will cost the city roughly $500,000.

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