Precious Minutes in an Emergency: New WRTFD Program Helps Families
Writer / Tonja Talley
Photographer / Jim Eichelman
Nothing cries out for compassion and concern like a fire engine and an ambulance screaming through a residential neighborhood. According to White River Township Fire Department (WRTFD) paramedic Leslie Cuma-Fontaine, precious minutes are often lost in residential emergencies due to no access into the home.
First responders struggle to prevent costly entry damage while protecting property and lives. This time versus cost scenario happens all too often. The solution for WRTFD occurred with a new system setup spearheaded by Leslie called the Knox HomeBox program.
According to WRTFD Deputy Chief Fire Marshal Matt Partain, the program, named after the device it utilizes, significantly decreases the time it takes to reach the patient. In the event of an emergency, the Knox HomeBox could give the extra time needed to locate a scared, hiding child, help a disabled occupant out of the home or save a stroke victim from long-term paralysis.
As a 16-year firefighter, Matt has experienced those times when intense seconds are uncertain. “We wanted to try the Knox HomeBox out on a residential home. I knew my parents who live in the township could benefit by the Knox HomeBox program,” said Matt. “Because of my mother’s physical limitations, my father worries about leaving her alone for extended periods. For me, getting a Knox HomeBox for my parents was a no-brainer. For Christmas last year, I purchased one for my father as a gift. ”
WHAT IS A KNOX HOMEBOX?
Talking with Sue Partain, Matt’s mother, she told her story as to why Matt obtained the Knox HomeBox. While driving to work in April 1985, Sue began experiencing double vision and stroke-like symptoms. A spinal tap and an examination of her brain resulted in a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis. Ten years later and still mobile, Sue and her husband Don built a home accessible for her future needs. Today, Sue functions with the use of a wheelchair.
Telling the story about Matt’s Christmas present to his father, she said, “The opened present looked like a square, compact safe.” At the memory, Sue slightly shook her head and smiled. “We were baffled. We had no idea what the gift was.”
Many people visualize the Knox HomeBox as something similar to a Realtor’s lock. In actuality, the Knox HomeBox is 4 inches square and approximately 2 inches thick. Bolted or hung on a door, the box weighs about 15 pounds. The small Knox HomeBox compartment holds the resident’s key and, if desired, a list of medications, allergies and emergency contacts. Many residents also add their advanced directive instructions.
After the WRTFD installs the Knox HomeBox, if any medical emergency arises, the responders can simply remove the entrance key stored inside the Knox HomeBox, get any medical information provided, deliver the necessary medical assistance and relock the door when they leave. By having all the medical information and the key right at their fingertips, the responders not only react quicker but with a more personalized medical approach.
KNOX HOMEBOX SECURITY
“Some people may question the security of the box,” said Fire Chief Jeremy Pell. “Used by businesses and industries for 30-plus years, I have never read an instance where anyone has gotten into the box. If you have a person intent on committing a crime and victimizing someone, they would have an easier time breaking a window or door than getting into this heavy-duty box. We feel the benefits certainly outweigh the tiny risks of stealing the key and information out of the box.”
For further security measures, Matt explained the master key for the residential boxes resides in a locked compartment safe on each fire truck and paramedic ambulance. These compartments open only by a fire department personnel’s individual pin number. “If there is any question about a possible break-in at a Knox HomeBox home, the department can go back and look to see if any employee used their code to access the key compartment during the suspected hours.”
Ordered through the Knox HomeBox Residential website (knoxhomebox.com), the homeowner may opt from three colors and four door mounts. After entering the state, city and zip code, double-check that the WRTFD non-emergency number and website appear in the top left corner of the computer screen before placing the order.
Besides the asset of the fire department’s assistance, the Knox HomeBox program also helps support those residents who are in need of a Residential Knox HomeBox while presently facing financial hardships. “Life can be hard, and we want to help the best we can,” said Leslie. “With this program, an individual may request a ‘Financial Knox HomeBox Hardship Application’ from the WRTFD’s headquarters. The form needs to be completed in its entirety, so the WRTFD can take into account the overall financial circumstances of the applicant. The accepted applications will allow the WRTFD to loan the homeowner a Residential Knox HomeBox for free.”
The program works nicely for families facing a disability and long recuperation. The Knox HomeBox company also suggests families with children consider this device. As Sue exemplifies, she is a fighter and functions well on her own, but she does admit, “Since becoming part of the Knox HomeBox program, I have felt more at peace when I am alone, if an emergency should arise.”