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Cedar Falls Iowa Lock Box Controversy

The city council in Cedar Falls, Iowa has absolutely crossed the line. They voted 6-1 in favor of expanding the use of lock boxes on commercial property. Property owners would be forced to place the keys to their businesses in boxes outside their doors so that firefighters, in that one-in-a-million chance, would have easy access to get inside.

Watch the video below and look at the sound bites captured by a patriot who taped the meeting. You need to do the same thing. We absolutely MUST capture on tape the power grabs by politicians at every level.

The video was taped at one of the mandatory public hearings or reading of the ordinance. I used to be a city councilman myself, and our charter required us to read a law at least three times at three separate meetings unless it was an emergency. This allowed citizens to come in and comment just as you see happening in the video.

Unfortunately, on June 13, 2011 the law was passed. Nick Taiber, was the only Cedar Falls Councilman that recognized that this law was totally out of line.

If you live in Cedar Falls, Iowa and are not incensed by this, something is wrong with you. If you are a resident and upset, then you need to mobilize and do everything possible to remove the six other members of your City Council from office.

Prior to that look into your city charter. Hopefully you have the ability to get a Referendum on the ballot so that you citizens can vote on this and overturn what your liberal Council members have done.

Laws like this are just another example of how government tries to take both liberty and property from citizens.


This is just another example of judicial arrogance. It appears that they didn't bother to get a legal opinion. By the time this goes through the appeals process hundreds of thousands of dollars will have been wasted and thousands of peoples lives and safety will have been jeopardized by this outrageous "big brother" law.

James Anderson on June 14, 2011 9:13 AM

The citizens of Ceader Falls should recall all but one of these counselman

Bill Podger on June 14, 2011 9:20 AM

I'd like people to think about this. Who is more of a threat to our way of life and our Constitution, Osama Bin Ladin and his kind or politicians like these? Remember, insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. We've let politicians (and judges)like these hamstring us. I'd like to see this corrected in my lifetime.

Steve Bukosky on June 14, 2011 9:26 AM

This is absurd-typical government hacks who believe they are smarter than we are, that we need them to satisfy our every concern and in the process, making it worse (ethanol for example). It seems very likely one of the many lock box keys would fall into the wrong hands (say, a corrupt fireman) who would then have free reign over all commercial buildings. Then what, change all the lock box keys at the taxpayer's or business owners' expense?

Jim Kal on June 14, 2011 9:27 AM

Two famous people & their quotes come to mind. 1.)James Traficant,Jr. - "Beam me up". 2.)Al Jolson - "You ain't seen nothing yet". Times like this have me asking - Who are these people, where are they from, & can they be sent Back !

Joe Tagliaferri on June 14, 2011 9:54 AM

For over 200 years we have not needed lock boxes on personal property. Nick Taiber has the right idea. He must be the only conservative on that council.This is another fine example of the government trying to run the citizens lives and not the other way around as it should be!

Kenneth Fuhr on June 14, 2011 10:13 AM

You've got to be kidding me! "The merit of an idea does not depend on the number of people that hold that idea." This man adds to the proof that politicians at all levels completely disregard the wishes of their constituents and somehow think THEY know better what is best for us. Cedar Falls, you've got six council members who don't have a clue what this country was founded on! Vote them out!

Bob Rose on June 14, 2011 10:48 AM

Rediculous!!! Mandating a key to minimize damage to a property in the case of a fire is CRAZY!!! The loss of a door coincident with a fire is relatively inconsequential and exposes property owners to greater risk to robbery, & arson. I thought Fire Men had large axes for this purpose.
To counteract this ordinance, I would seek Insurance Industry input regarding insurance premium increases due to this increased exposure to risk.

Joe McGarvey on June 14, 2011 10:56 AM

The fact that they think they can do this is just wrong on so many levels. The citizens really need to fight this.
Having said that, a place I was formerly employed at did this lock box thing with the local fire dept. on a VOLUNTARY basis. The lock box was virtually indestructable and it would have been easier for a thief to break the glass in the entrance door. The building had an alarm as well. So for us it was a good thing, but again it was our choice.
If the citizens can't get this law changed, there are a couple of things they can do, 1, put the wrong key in the lock box and if the system has to verify that the key works before being put in the lock box, 2, change the locks afterward. One can always say "oops" after the fact.

Frank on June 14, 2011 11:00 AM

So . . . how may palms were crossed with silver for this one? Who on the Cedar Falls city council is related to someone from the lockbox company?

Diane23 on June 14, 2011 12:05 PM

If it can happen in Iowa it can happen anywhere!

Thanks to whoever captured this meeting on video. I would not have believed this if I didn't see it with my own eyes.

Nancy Wright on June 14, 2011 12:09 PM

The next move, will to have cameras outside and inside your business, so that they can see what is going on before they assign expensive manpower and vehicles to go to that location.

Fred on June 14, 2011 12:18 PM

I kept rereading this and rewatching the video clip to try and find the punchline here - I was thinking that this was some sort of joke... like Aston Kucher going around punking people... and then I checked the date and no it's not April 1st.

I just want to know what happened, what is in the water there at Cedar Falls that is making people think that having government owned lock boxes - meaning the government has access to one's business at ANY TIME - is okay. I don't live there nor am I a business owner but I'm ticked off at this. I sincerely hope that this idiotic law repealed and they get rid of the idiots who voted for it. I have to wonder just how many of those people on the council own their own businesses and if so are they affected as well?

Pete on June 14, 2011 1:01 PM

Do you suppose there is now a "lock box" on all city buildings?

I can see easy protest if so --large posters on all the city computers, etc., saying "This could have been stolen! Thanks for leaving the key out side for me!"

Sure it would be a crime --but so was dumping the tea in Boston Harbor.

Does the city jail have a outside "lock box"? Or the banks? Of course not, or if they do I think the city council would soon learn the error involved in such stupidity --unless Cedar Falls has an unusually civilly responsible criminal class.

I can pretty much guarantee the keys in many of those "lock boxes" will not actually fit any lock --hey accidents happen.

Don on June 14, 2011 1:08 PM

Federal, State, County, City and local government has gotten too big. The American people can np longer carry the burden of big Government. In Houston let's look at Law enforcement in the same area. Metro Police, School District Police, Constables, Houston City Police, Harris County Sherrif Police, Finally Village Police. They all cover the same area. I wonder what that costs? When you call them they tell you what they can't do to help you instead of what they can do. They are experts at setting up traps for motorists because their jobs depend on the ticket revenue they can generate. Just look around and be amazed at the sheer size of government. The worst part is that Government is inefficient wastes money and purchases products they don't need just so they will not lose the money for the budget period. Ask any salesman that calls on Government he will open your eyes to Government waste.

Robert Peters on June 14, 2011 3:26 PM

Given that an unknown percentage of the keys won't work, precious time is wasted unlocking the box and repeatedly trying the wrong key in the lock. The uncertainty of the reliability of such keys may cause firemen to simply knock down the locked door as they have for generations.

Anyone put a tab on the COST of this program -- to both the taxpayers AND the business owners? And don't you have to send out inspectors to try the lock boxes periodically, with all the costs that entails?

Most important, the government now can use other pretenses to enter a business, either for inspections or covertly for illegal surveillance without warrants. It's too big a temptation for too many government agencies.

Richard Rider on June 15, 2011 3:53 AM

Classic liberal worldview at work - it's our right and obligation to protect the undeducated masses from their own shortcomings. And this didn't even take place in the liberally slanted East or the left's in the heart of the Midwest! Citizens of Cedar Falls, WAKE UP! Unbelieveable.

Ed Pease on June 15, 2011 4:37 PM

To most of the previous commentators on this topic your lack of information on this topic is making even the Internet look bad. The system being required here is commonly known as Knox Boxes after the company that sells most of the equipment. This sort of thing is nothing new with many fire departments already supporting it and more than a few municipalities across the country already requiring it as part of the commercial building code. The rapid entry key systems are meant to address a legitimate public safety problem of commercial establishments being vacant at night, presenting an increased risk of fire and, more importantly, possessing automated fire detection equipment that can be prone to false positives.

Unlike a home smoke detector going off if you leave something on the stove too long, a commercial business will have equipment that automatically summons the fire department. Faced with a building that may have a serious fire inside the fire department is faced with the choice of breaking down the door and causing the owner significant damage (that the department and therefore the taxpayer might then be liable to pay for) or standing by until the building explodes in flame...or not. I guess Government is always overreaching until it is your property that is set on fire from a fully engulfed business down the street.

Anyway, that being said, I don't agree with the Knox Box system and I think that as designed they are an incredibly stupid idea. This isn't a Civil Liberties problem, it is a Security problem plain and simple. If the fire department master key gets compromised then every building that key unlocks will be compromised as well and in a way that is hard to detect and/or file insurance claims against. Not only that there is no way to recover from a compromise that doesn't involve re-keying EVERY box...a major expense.

Anyway, Fire Department or police access to commercial structures using key escrow system is nothing new. They have been required before and this one just has a few more bells and whistles. What needs to be done is have a better system in place that can meet the needs of public safety without exposing the community to additional risk.

Mike B on July 14, 2011 9:52 AM

The simplest solution for those who don't want to put a key to their business in a lock-box is simply to substitute a similar key which won't actually open the door.

Then if the worst happens and the key is put to use (and doesn't work), the fire department will simply break the door like they're supposed to do anyway.

You could also fill the lock-box with novelty-colored air-soft pellets and some "Pop-It"s which would fall out all over the place if the box is opened. The Pop-Its would make noise and the air-soft pellets would make it nearly impossible for someone to hide the fact that the box has been opened.

You could also dust the key with "visible stain theft detection powder" and maybe catch the culprit purple-handed.

Rick Miller on July 15, 2011 11:32 AM

It is very much a Civil Liberties issue because you are REQUIRED to given the state full access to your building and everything within it.

From my point of view, the correct approach is that either you choose to install one of these boxes to give emergency services easy access, or you don't install one and they break down the door without hesitation. It should be your choice as the owner.

Personally, I do not want to be protected by a fire brigade that finds a closed door to be a challenge.

David on July 15, 2011 12:12 PM

How in heaven's name did these city councilmen deceive enough people in order to be elected? I wonder what the turnout in that election was. Perhaps the people of Cedar Falls have learned a valuable lesson.

Gene M on July 17, 2011 12:15 PM

Leave it to ignorant bloggers to completely misunderstand a great policy that is designed to save business owners money.
Lock boxes are a very important tool for fire departments. The writer states that there is only a 1% chance that a lock box will be needed. In fact, there is less than a 1% chance that the box will be needed for an actual fire, however it will probably be used quite frequently for false alarm activations. These boxes save businesses money because the fire department must assume there is a fire if the alarm is going off. If there is no key holder on scene they must break a window or kick down the door. Both of which are very costly for the business owner. If there is a real fire, the key box saves valuable time and that reduced time will more than pay for the box.
There is minimal concern about security and privacy. All fire departments have limited sets of keys and there are very strict rules when the keys can be used. Some departments even have elaborate systems where the key is in a similar locked box on the fire truck. To get that box to open the firefighters must radio to dispatch for a special tone to be transmitted that will unlock the box. That audio transmission is recorded and the request is noted in the log.
Also, most businesses have cameras, so they will have a visual record of anyone that accesses the lock box.
It is unfortunate that Mr. Carter elected to shoot of his mouth before learning or understanding the facts about these wonderful tools that save businesses money and allow fire departments to better protect lives and property.

COMMENT BY Tim Carter:


It's unfortunate that you missed the point of the intelligent blog post. I'll give you the Executive Summary:

1. The lock boxes are a violation of private property rights.

2. Businesses pay fire insurance premiums. If the FD shatters a plate-glass window or a door to gain entry, big deal.

End of Story. Oh, and everyone and myself really appreciate your professionalism and courteous comment. You're a crowd pleasure for sure.

Mike on July 27, 2011 1:17 PM

The fire code adopted by the jurisdiction (usually the State) allows this.


506.1 When required.

Where access to or within a structure or an area is restricted because of secured openings or where immediate access is necessary for life-saving or fire-fighting purposes, the code official is authorized to require a key box to be installed in an accessible location. The key box shall be of an approved type and shall contain keys to gain access as required by the code official.

The prudent jurisdiction recognizes the potential liability associated with these key boxes and lets the business owner make the decision to provide one or not. Some States do not give the local jurisdiction this flexibility, and mandate the key box be installed.

With respect to some insurance companies, here are some of the things they are doing now, that they never used to do:
Some Insurance companies are suing fire departments for causing excessive damage during firefighting operations. Some Insurance companies are suing fire departments for causing damage during the investigation of a report of fire. Some Insurance companies are suing fire departments for not finding fires when there is no apparent external signs justifying a forcible entry to investigate further. Some Companies, backed by their insurance companies are threatening to sue fire departments for not having the ability (equipment and resources) to fight fires in the unique hazards that they've created their facilities. Some Insurance companies are suing fire departments whom they feel fail to adequately pre-plan for a fire at their insured's facility.

Here is a typical scenario:

Report of a waterflow alarm at an 80,000 square foot 2-story retail occupancy.

First due assignment arrives on the scene, no sign of smoke or fire; alarm company confirms the waterflow alarm. Building owner cannot be reached by the alarm company. Do you break in, or not? If you do, and this is a false alarm, the fire company gets sued for the damage done. If you don't, and there is, in fact, water flowing in the building, whether or not it is fire related, you get sued for not stopping the damage in a timely fashion.

That's why volunteer fire officers get paid the big bucks to make these decisions.

Dwight Havens on October 8, 2011 11:27 AM
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