Times Associate Editor
Town council was poised to issue a letter of apology and reimbursement of non-mandatory installed fire lock boxes after an angered business community and the lobbying efforts of a local official directed attention to the confusion and mixed messages of a requirement to install such devices.
Strathmore businesses felt frustrated and pressured to install a fire department lock box costing nearly $500, after the Strathmore Fire Department conducted a fire safety inspection report in the beginning of May, and a letter that contained ominous language making it seem the installation was mandatory and failure to comply would result in consequences under the Alberta Safety Code.
It was later revealed that the action was not mandatory in certain situations.
"At the moment there are many business owners frustrated, confused, upset, and disappointed to say the least on the lock box issue," said Councillor Rocky Blokland, owner of Rocky's Bakery. "From what I read from this letter it is definitely mandatory. Without prejudice the fire department is sending out mixed messages on the lock box issue and as business owners, they are getting very confused.
"First they are mandatory then they are not, and worst yet there is no clear information coming forward. It's now up to me as a councillor to get involved with this ... as a councillor I do listen to the citizens, taxpayers, and business owners in town."
Regardless of being told installing the fire lock box was required after Rocky's Bakery was inspected on May 7, Blokland approached town administration where he was informed otherwise. A letter from the fire department was circulated to all commercial buildings that stated 'the property owner is required to purchase a lockbox device.'
Furthermore the letter, which was signed by Strathmore Fire Department Fire Chief Muir Furzer, informed businesses that 'pursuant to Alberta Fire Code (AFC) I am advising you that effective immediately, all occupancies shall install lock box devices in compliance with code requirements outline in section AFC 126.96.36.199.2.' It continues saying that failure to comply may result in the building owner, occupier, or manager being charged under the Alberta Safety Code.
During the Aug. 19 regular town council meeting, administration contradicted the statement, clarifying that the requirement is only valid in certain situation, such as when the facilities contain an automatic sprinkler system, locked access doors to the roof, or a locked fire alarm system, to name a few.
Administration said they were made aware of the concerns regarding the requirement of fire lock boxes on Aug. 17.
"The information received is that there have been a number of commercial buildings that have been required to install lock boxes that do not meet the mandatory provision under the Alberta Fire Code 2014," said Deputy Chief Administrative Officer for the town Linda Nelson.
"For council's information, as of about two weeks ago one of our safety-code officers has been in the process of contacting all of the businesses affected to let them know this is not a mandatory requirement. We are also going to be reimbursing all those businesses who have installed and paid for lock boxes, where they are not required to install the lockboxes."
According to administration, the town will also pay for the boxes to be removed and any repairs incurred due to installation. Those businesses affected will also be receiving a letter of apology from the Town of Strathmore.