Fire Chief Alan Viox said Thursday morning's fire drill and evacuation at the Otoe County courthouse an opportunity to improve safety and encourage a rapid-entry key system for firefighters.

Fire Chief Alan Viox called Thursday morning's fire drill and evacuation at the Otoe County Courthouse a success and opportunity to suggest an outdoor key arrangement.

The courthouse fire alarm sounded at 8:15 a.m. and 37 employees evacuated to the sheriff's office parking lot south of building.

Deputy Otoe County Emergency Management Director Stephen Cody said employees are instructed to exit any door, but are asked to meet in one place to verify that everyone is out.

Viox said the drill was also an opportunity to encourage the courthouse staff to install a Knox-Box rapid entry key arrangement.
The Knox-Box company would register locked boxes for Nebraska City buildings so that only the key given to the Nebraska City Fire Department will open them.

The boxes will give firefighters “all hours” access to buildings.
Viox said some city's require rapid entry keys, but Nebraska City is hoping to gradually implement the Knox-Box.

Normally, only buildings with fire suppression sprinkler systems or with automatic fire alarms are suggested.

“If the fire alarm goes off in the middle of the night, we will not have to wait until a key holder shows up, but we will have access as soon as we get there,” Viox said.

The city has been talking with building owners since the beginning of 2012 and there are now four buildings using the Knox-Box arrangement.

The new fire doors installed in the courthouse’s central staircase did not close as expected when the fire alarm sounded.
Viox called the drill a success.

“Anytime you do something to reinforce the procedures for evacuations and where people are to meet, you're improving safety,” he said.