The Town of Oak Island is now forcing business owners to spend hundreds of dollars on a piece of equipment that many say is not necessary.
In order to access buildings quickly, minimize forced entry damage, and protect firefighters from injury, the Oak Island Fire Department has adopted the Knox-Box Rapid Entry System.
Currently, more than 7,000 fire departments utilize the Knox-Box system nationwide including many in Brunswick County and Wilmington.
It's a program that's been voluntary for years, but now Oak Island is mandating that every business owner have a Knox-Box which contains a key that firefighters can use for quick access in an emergency.
Oak Island Businesses are now forced to spend between $250-$500 to buy one in order to meet the fire code. Theresa Dearros, who operates the Oak Island Post Office, said that's a hefty price for a piece of equipment that she believes will not get proper use.
"We already don't make very much money and to spend extra cash on lighted exit signs and Knox boxes and fire inspector visits - it's a hardship," Dearros said. "It really makes me worry if we can even stay open."
Another concern is security. Oak Island Fire Marshal Bobby Carmon said the program is only used during emergencies.
"The keys are secure," Carmon said. "We will make entry one way or another, but our goal is to do it with little to no damage."
Dearros, however, is concerned about the 1,300 people who count on her to keep their mail safe.
"I don't think it's right for them to come in here and for whatever reason...not that they would do that, but the possibility is there to come in here and have access to everyone's mail," Dearros said.
So even though the program is aimed at safety, Dearros said she believes that businesses should have a choice.
"I don't see any type of emergency that they would need to get in here unless it's a fire in which case you would see smoke and then it would be too late," Dearros argued.
Oak Island isn't the only town using Knox-Boxes, all Fire Departments in Brunswick County have a Knox Box system. Brunswick County does require all commercial structures with sprinkler systems or Fire Alarm systems to install a Knox-Box. The difference is that Oak Island requires all businesses to obtain one.
Bald Head Island is different because they force both business owners and residents to have a Knox-Box.
New Hanover County FD and Wilmington FD also have requirements on Knox-Box usage as well.
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