Knox Box Questions and Answers

Charleston Fire Department
Information Sheet on Emergency Access Key Boxes

When a fire breaks out, seconds count. Many times, firefighters find access to an emergency blocked by locked entrance doors or gates. To help reduce delays in emergency services, the Charleston Fire Department has adopted a key lock box system. The system chosen by this department is known as the Knox Rapid Entry system.

What is the Knox Rapid Entry System?
The Knox Rapid Entry system is a secure emergency access program developed for property owners and fire departments. When a fire breaks out, or there is any emergency, the Knox Box Rapid Entry System allows firefighters and paramedics immediate entry into buildings and property without forced entry damage or delay. Property owners store keys, access cards, gate keys, etc. in high-security Knox-Boxes mounted near building entrances. Each Knox-Box purchased by a property owner can be opened by a master key controlled by the Fire Department.

In addition to key boxes and vaults, Knox Padlocks and key switches operate the same master key. This allows fire department access to gated communities and storage areas using the same Master key.
How does the Knox Rapid Entry System benefit property owners?
When an emergency occurs, the Knox Rapid Entry System will allow the Fire Department to spend less time to gain access to your building. This faster access will allow for rapid control of the emergency. This could mean faster fire control or more rapid shut off of a sprinkler system, resulting in less water damage.
Also, the Knox Rapid Entry System allows fire department access without damage to the building. Without this system, the fire department will gain access by forcible entry, often causing damage to doors or windows and the area around them. After forcible entry, it's hard to secure a building again after the emergency has been controlled. Repairs made after a single forcible entry will likely pay for the purchase and placement of a Knox-Box.
With the Knox-Box Rapid Entry System, property owners save in two ways; first, with more rapid control of emergencies and second, with less damage caused by fire department entry.
What about Master Key safety?
The safety of the Fire Department master key is a primary concern. Anyone with access to this key can have access to your building. The Charleston Fire Department has chosen the Knox Master Key Retention system to help ensure the safety of the Master Keys. Master keys are kept only in the emergency box. In each emergency, the key is secure in a Knox Master Key Retention device. The key can only be released when a Charleston Fire Department Officer enters an ID Number to release the Master Key. The Fire Department Officer can then complete what task is needed and replace the Master Key in the emergency box. The device that the key was removed from will have a recorded log of who removed the key and what time it was removed and replaced. The Knox Master Key Retention device will have a blue strobe light, which will flash until the master key has been placed back in the box. This strobe will make sure that the key is replaced before the movement of the vehicle. This system allows the maximum safety for these master keys.
Why is the Knox Rapid Entry System required? Don't other companies make similar products?
Other companies do make similar products. However, any system adopted by a Fire Department must be able to be used with all boxes. Only one master key will be carried on the fire truck. This key must operate all lock boxes in the City. To maintain master key safety, all companies in this business guard the master key codes. They will not release details to any other maker or supplier. These safety concerns require that one vendor is selected for the whole city.

The Knox Company has been chosen for several reasons. Their system has proven reliable in thousands of cities across the nation. They have many products that meet rapid entry and access needs. However, the primary reason the Knox Company was selected for the Charleston Fire Department was Key safety. No other company makes a product similar to the Knox Master Key Retention system. Because we were not willing to compromise the reputation of the Charleston Fire Department, we chose the Knox Entry system.
Who is required to install the Knox Box?
This ordinance requires the Owners of any structure which contains a fire alarm that uses an auto dialer to notify the Fire Department or provides a sprinkler system, or a multi-family structure, which includes senior apartments/condos that have limited access to the living units. It also includes commercial and industrial buildings known by Fire Officials as hard to access during emergencies.

It does not require that the owner places keys to all units in the Knox Box, but this is allowed based on the owner’s judgment. It also does not require that a structure having on-site 24-hour staff utilize the system.
Does the City make any money off the sales of the Knox Box?
No. The Fire Department has no interest in the sales of the Knox Company. The only purpose for the Key Lock System is to improve Fire Department Access in emergencies and to reduce property damage caused by forcible entry.
How much does a Knox box cost?
The cost of a Knox Box is determined by the Knox Company and varies depending on what you order. Please visit the for prices.
Where should my Knox box be mounted?
Key boxes should be mounted near the main entry door to your building. The Fire Department suggests that the box is mounted on the right-hand side of the door, no higher than five feet above the ground. We also realize that this may not be possible in all cases, call the Fire Department for advice if needed.
How do I lock my keys in the Knox Box? I did not receive a key?
Property owners do not receive keys that will open their Knox Box. Any key that will open your Knox Box will also open other Knox Boxes in the City. For that reason, only the Fire Department has the master key. When your box is mounted and ready to install keys, call the non-emergency number at the Fire Department.  An officer from the Fire Department will come and place the keys securely in your box.
What keys need to be installed in my Knox Box?
The Charleston Fire Department can assist you. Keys required will vary from one business to another. The Ordinance lists keys for the outside doors and all inside doors which control access to shared systems such as HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning), sprinkler systems, alarms, and electric panels.
What do I need to do to get an application?
To purchase a Knox Box you can purchase them through the website You can download from the link below step by step instructions on how to purchase a box from the website. There is also a contact information sheet that must be filled out and turned into the Fire Department or Building Department prior to the Fire Department locking up the box. The documents can also be picked up at City Hall.