Open House

Is your home security system locking emergency personnel out? Get the 411 on how to let 911 responders into your home safely and quickly.

Photo by Joe Schmelzer


Perimeter walls, gates and fences do a great job of maintaining privacy, but these physical barriers could also delay help during an emergency. When a call for help is received, first responders need immediate access to gated properties – and any delay in response could be the difference between saving your property and total loss, or even the difference between life and death.

Fire, police and emergency medical personnel cannot waste time looking for keys, codes, cranks, or attempting to force a driveway gate open with bolt cutters, the “jaws of life” or other mechanical devices. They also cannot wait for maintenance personnel to arrive to activate gate release mechanisms. Furthermore, if you live in an area prone to earthquakes, wildfires, hurricanes or tornadoes, catastrophe response may be determined on a triage or accessibility basis, and gated properties could be bypassed.

As a result of advancements in technology, a number of devices are available that can provide emergency responders faster access to your property, even when security gates are in place. To ensure security is maintained, these products typically feature an audit trail for the device and day/time of each usage. The most common types of emergency access devices are:

  • Secured master switch or key: Using a master key specific to their geographic area, first responders can access an override switch to gain entry to your property. A similar option is to store an override key for your gate in a special secured box mounted near the gate; emergency responders use their master key to open the lockbox and access the override key.
  • Audio-based entry system: These systems are programmed to open your gate in response to the “yelp” of emergency vehicle sirens or a prolonged high-decibel sound. The systems feature adjustable safety options.
  • Radio-based entry system: Radio-based entry systems use scanner radio frequency technology that enables first responders or authorized users to activate driveway gates and security control mechanisms by using their portable or mobile radios.
  • Optical or light-based system: This system detects emergency-vehicle strobe lights and provides rapid access to secured gates.

Photo by Arcaid Images


How can you determine which type of device is most appropriate for your home or property? Check with your local fire chief or emergency authority to see what the preferred device in your jurisdiction is.

Zachary A. Zwerin is a Senior Risk Consultant at Chubb Personal Risk Services.

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