Lockout Service Not The Safest, Best Use Of Local Firefighters

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by John Ross
Payson Fire Chief
As a reminder, beginning April 5 the Payson Fire Department will only provide emergency lockout service to those who lock their keys in their vehicle. This will allow the department to increase firefighter safety, improve life safety and property conservation, and decrease liability to the Town of Payson.

It is with regret that the department will no longer be able to respond to non-emergency lockouts. However, in the event that all locksmiths are called and no one can assist, the fire department will respond to provide help.

There are very important reasons for making such a change. Many automobiles now have side-mounted airbags that may inflate/explode when using a lockout tool, thereby jeopardizing the life of a firefighter. By keeping firefighters from attempting entry into such vehicles, their risk for serious injury or death is reduced. Additionally, gaining entry into a vehicle for a person who does not own the vehicle, or is intoxicated or over-medicated, portends problems and substantially increases liability.

Federal laws from the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OSHA) require fire departments to adopt numerous procedures and operational requirements. Compliance with federal law required time for protocol development, education and training. This time will partially be acquired by eliminating responses to non-emergency lockouts, which in 1998 numbered over 895.

Each lockout averages approximately 35 minutes, which equates to over 522 hours yearly. The cost for this service, in which almost 35 percent of those requiring the service are not from Payson, approaches $10,000 annually.

Standards for contemporary fire departments have demanded that time be allocated for fire and emergency medical service activities. Moreover, injury and fire prevention efforts have precedence over non-essential services.

For example, the fire department's Adopt-A-School program, which teaches fire and injury prevention behaviors to all third-graders in Payson, has the capability to save lives and property in Payson by positively influencing the children and their parents. Time to develop curricula and provide such a service will come, in part, from the reduction of non-emergency lockouts.

I have locked myself out of my car several times in the past, and found that keeping an extra key at home allowed me to get back into my car, albeit later! Several other suggestions to minimize the inconvenience are:

  • Hide a key in a magnetic box in or under the vehicle.
  • Keep an extra key in your wallet or purse.
  • Put an extra key in the possession of a relative or friend.
  • Buy roadside service through your car insurance for as little as $6 a year which pays for a locksmith.

Thank you very much for your understanding. The Payson Fire Department will continue to provide the finest fire and medical emergency services possible, as well as fire and injury prevention programs, to the citizens of Payson.

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