Waterloo firefighter designs new 'lock box' that reduces respond times for emergency personnel

A Waterloo firefighter says he and his colleagues often have to wait for someone to open locked doors when they're trying to access a home and help someone. And he's proposing a solution to fix that.

Chris Evans says firefighters often have to wait when they need to get through a locked door to help someone

Chris Evans, from Waterloo Fire Rescue, designed the SAFE System, which consists of a "strong box" that would be attached to all fire trucks. He says it would solve the problem of locked doors and long wait times for emergency personnel. (SAFEsystem)

A firefighter from Waterloo has designed a safe lock box that he says would solve the problem of locked doors and long wait times for emergency personnel, especially firefighters, when they are trying to reach someone needing urgent help in a home. 

Chris Evans, from Waterloo Fire Rescue, designed the SAFE System, which consists of a "strong box" that would be attached to all fire trucks. The box contains an electronic key that can hold up to 16,000 key codes, matching "cylinder" boxes on the homes of residents. 

A Waterloo firefighter has designed a faster way for emergency personnel to reach a person in need inside a home or commercial building. The "SAFE System" consists of an electronic key that can hold up to 16-thousand key codes. The home or building would need a matching cylinder box on their property for the SAFE system to work. 6:22

"Typically what we'd do if we come to a home and can't get in is call back to dispatch and ask them for what's called a 'responsible person,' and if they can come with a key to unlock it," Chris Evans told CBC News. 

"That might be a family member or someone on file to have a key to let us in," he said. "And this all takes time." 

Evans said it's a problem he's encountered often over the course of his 20-year career.

With the SAFE System, firefighters would be able to use the electronic key to immediately access the property and enter right away, eliminating the wait-times that they would experience before the "responsible person" showed up. 

"It's about cutting patient contact times," said Evans. "It's a matter of seconds." 

The box contains an electronic key that can hold up to 16,000 key codes, matching "cylinder" boxes on the homes of residents. (Submitted by: Tivoli Films)

Waiting for implementation 

Evans said in order to implement the system, fire services of municipalities must install the "strong box" onto their trucks first, before they can offer cylinders to residents and install them onto their properties. 

So far, Waterloo Fire Rescue and Guelph Fire Services have both expressed interest in testing the program. 

He said Waterloo Fire Rescue already installed the boxes, but they are waiting for funding to purchase "mobile data terminals" that are similar to laptop computers to store the information. 

Guelph Fire Services, on the other hand, already had the mobile data terminals on their trucks, are installing the strong boxes, and will be testing the system in spring of this year. 

"It wouldn't be right if we didn't do some proper field trials for this device," Evans said. "To get feedback from the firefighters, you know, to say, 'this was an issue' or 'this was great.'"

Reducing damages 

Evans said firefighters don't break into people's homes all the time, not unless there is a "probable cause" to do so. And when they have to do that, it damages people's property. 

"Our goal here is to improve patient contact times and reduce damage due to forceful entry," he said.