Council passes ordinance to ease firefighter access

Commercial properties, other buildings required to apply for lock boxes.

Berlin Borough Council met for an in person session on March 11, adopting three ordinances on  second hearing, one of which requires property owners to register for lock boxes with fire officials before March 11, 2021.

Ordinance 2021-03 applies to commercial buildings, multifamily residential structures, schools (both public and private), government buildings and nursing-care facilities that are not open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The full list of affected buildings and the ordinance can be viewed at https://www.berlinnj.org/2021-03%20-%20Key%20Lock%20Box%20Ordinance%20(003).pdf.

The purpose of the ordinance is to allow firefighters easier access to buildings during emergencies when there is no one in the building, or when people are unable to get to the door. The ordinance states that key lock boxes will “eliminate costly damage from forcible entry into buildings equipped with automatic systems by the fire company checking for fire or other dangerous conditions.”

At the previous meeting on Feb. 11, Solicitor Howard Long noted that a number of towns have an ordinance of that type.

“This is a good health and public-safety issue because it will enable our firefighters when they get to an alarm or building to actually have a lock box and get access to the premise,” Long said.

As stated in the ordinance, the lock box must include labelled keys for areas of entrance and exit, mechanical rooms, elevator rooms and controls, fences or secured areas, fire alarm panels and fire protection systems. It would also include a card containing the emergency contact information for the building, a floor plan showing the location of shutoffs, information on hazardous materials and an inventory of keys. The ordinance states that “the cost of purchasing and installing, along with any cost associated with implementation of the program at a specific property, will be borne by the property owner.” Failure to comply will result in a fine up to $1,000.

In other news, the Stormwater Control Ordinance (2021-02) and the ordinance to purchase property on South White Horse Pike (2021-04) were both adopted, and the Department of Public Works is focusing on seasonal organic cleanup.

Councilman Andrew Simone reminded Berlin residents that there are some regulations regarding waste pickup.

“Organics should be neatly placed or stacked at the curb to expedite the removal,” he said. “The use of bio-degradable bags is acceptable, but the use of plastic bags is not. It’s prohibited.

“Rush should be tied up and bundled,” Simone added, “not to exceed 4 feet in length or weigh more than 50 pounds. And logs should be cut into one-and-a-half-foot sections.”

Any concerns or special requests should be directed to the Department of Public Works, and more information can be found on its website.

The next council meeting is scheduled for April 8 at 7 p.m., in person at the Berlin Borough Municipal Building.