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Fire department keys: great privilege, great responsibility

Safeguard these often-overlooked tools of the trade

Editor's note: Chief Adam K. Thiel points us to the story of duplicate fire department keys that found their way on Ebay as a reminder about the tremendous responsibility that these keys carry.

Sometimes it's easy to forget about one of the biggest differences between the fire and emergency services and other government agencies: people openly invite us into their homes and businesses at all hours of the day and night, and often when they're not even there.

This story demonstrates the importance of not taking this privilege for granted, by safeguarding the keys that are an often-overlooked tool of our trade.

I was amazed during my first recruit school when a guest instructor came and taught us how to defeat locks of all shapes, sizes, and types using through-the-lock and conventional forcible-entry methods. I realized that this knowledge, in the wrong hands, could be used for nefarious purposes.

Imagine my surprise when I later discovered that many of our buildings had rapid-entry key boxes, and they gave us the keys to access them.

Personally, I felt a great responsibility for those keys and always made sure to sign them in/out of our logbook, making sure that when not in use they were properly secured and accounted for. My impression is that the majority of firefighters feel the same way, since rampant illegal use of fire department keys is rarely front-page news.

However, with today's technology it can be all-too-easy for people to access, and potentially duplicate, keys carried by fire departments for a range of purposes. This fact makes it all the more important that we aggressively defend, as in this case, any attempts to compromise the trust our residents place in us.

So don't overlook that "lowly" key ring on your next vehicle check.

Stay safe!

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