Gated Access Communities & Siren Operated Sensors
Effective September 1, 2009, a new provision to the Local Government Code, 352.1145 was passed by the State Legislature and signed by Governor Rick Perry that allows counties to regulate gates into a gated community or a multi-unit housing project that is/are equipped with a electric gate operating device. As a result of this new law, the County Fire Marshal has recommended that this new law be implemented in all areas of unincorporated Bexar County. On March 9th, 2010, the Bexar County Commissioners Court adopted rules and regulations to implement and enforce this state law. The Commissioners Court Order is located at Commissioners Court Order Adopting Rules for the Regulation of Electric-Operated Gates (PDF). These siren operated sensor devices will automatically open an electric gate when the device detects the siren of an emergency vehicle for a certain time period. For security reasons, we will not discuss the siren tones or time periods. However, when the device senses the right siren tone and for the required time, it will automatically open the gate to allow emergency responders to enter the community.
The Fire Marshal's Office personnel have surveyed several areas of the county, to determine if emergency responders could properly access gated communities during an emergency. What was discovered was that most gated communities, especially those that are close to, or border the City of San Antonio, cannot be accessed by the Fire Department or other emergency services that actually protect that area!
A significant number of these communities that are using a key pad type entry device have either changed their access numbers and have not notified the Bexar County Emergency Communication Center of the new numbers, or they have failed to provide the access numbers when the gates were installed.
The majority of the KNOX Key systems that were encountered were not properly keyed for the County access KNOX key. In most cases, the key system is actually set up for the City of San Antonio. For example, a relatively new area of residential development on the west side of the county was checked. The volunteer fire department that services that area could not access a single gated area of the approximate 8 gated communities checked.
While all of the County Fire Departments are participants in the County required KNOX system, several departments have previously utilized their own KNOX system, and others only utilized the County system. This has cause conflicts with which key to use by emergency responders, and this increases the response time to an emergency. Also many of the other emergency response agencies do not have access to these KNOX keys. Therefore, if you have an emergency situation that requires the Sheriffs' Office or an Ambulance, they may not be able to access the gates until someone within the community goes to open them. The SOS-YDT device is only required on gates that are electrically operated. Any manual operated gates to the community may still be secured using the County KNOX padlock system. Bexar County Commissioners Court Order requires all manual operated gates to a gated community or multi-unit housing project MUST be secured with a KNOX system padlock or with a KNOX box containing the keys, combination, or other operating instructions to open/operate the gate.
The actual installation cost will vary depending on the company that installs the SOS-YDT on the gate, the type of gate controls, and any maintenance agreements that may be selected. As a general rule of thumb, the Fire Marshal's Office searched the internet, and found SOS-YDT devices that cost from $269 up to $460.
Due to the approval process that must accompany the installation of a SOS-YDT device on a gated community or multi-unit housing project, it is strongly recommended that the device be installed by a professional gate installation company. The device can be purchased direct from the manufacturer, and installed by any competent electrician with knowledge for electric gate operations; however, the installation must still be registered with the County Fire Marshal's Office.
Registering your Device(s)
These devices, along with all KNOX system devices, must be registered with the Fire Marshal's Office in order to ensure that their locations are input into the county Computer Aided Dispatch system. When an emergency call is placed from within a gated community, and emergency services are dispatched, this information will be displayed to the dispatcher and relayed to the responding services. By knowing the exact gates that are equipped with these type devices will direct responding emergency units to use these specific locations, which will reduce the amount of time for the emergency services to arrive at the location.