Colton Modernizes Emergency Access for Gated Communities

Controlled access gates at residential communities can present a formidable obstacle for law enforcement. Nationwide, public safety personnel have been challenged with the task of gaining immediate emergency access to gated private communities. Agencies everywhere are faced with the same dilemma: what to do when access gates delay emergency services. How can municipal administrators assist emergency responders in better serving the public? One solution is to give them the keys to the city, or something even better, the e-keys to the city. 

Colton Police Department’s E-Key system is an innovative, citywide emergency remote-controlled gate opener system. The low cost system virtually eliminates response delays caused by security gates and allows public safety personnel, both law enforcement and fire, immediate and uninhibited access to gated communities.

Colton Police Chief Kenneth Rulon commissioned the E-Key program after experiencing the problem firsthand. While responding to a call for service at an apartment community, Rulon and officers had to wait for a manager to open a gate to allow police access. Fortunately, the incident did not result in any serious consequences, but Rulon identified the issue of gate access as being a significant obstacle to his officers’ ability to provide better service to the community.

Controlled access gates are primarily utilized on multi-unit residential properties with high population densities, affecting approximately 40 percent of Colton’s citizens. Rulon recognized that residents of gated communities suffer a tangibly diminished level of emergency services due to delays caused by controlled access gates. “If it were my loved one who needed emergency assistance, I would certainly want the police or paramedics to get there as soon as possible,” said Rulon.

Greatest Benefits Seen for Police

While the Colton Police Department developed the E-Key system to benefit all emergency responders, by far the greatest gains have been realized in law enforcement. Traditional keyed access systems were developed primarily for Fire Department use; however, the needs of law enforcement are very different. Police respond to gated communities on a more frequent basis, and while officers are being delayed by driveway gates, criminals can easily flee or discard contraband. Ironically, the very same gates used to guard against criminals are equally effective at keeping out the police.

E-Key has helped increase the Colton Po-lice Department’s operational efficiency. The E-Key system enables emergency res-ponders to enter gated communities in the shortest amount of time possible. Experience has shown the E-Key system allows rapid access to gated communities in less than 20 seconds, whereas traditional keyed entry systems typically require one minute or longer to facilitate emergency access. When time is critical, officers can arrive much sooner, better able to prevent an injury or save a life.

Expedited Egress with E-Key

Additional secondary benefits were also realized with E-Key, including rapid egress. Police can now activate gates well in advance of any in-ground sensor. Exit delays while police manually reset the open gates, or secondary responses to close gates that were left open, are eliminated. Expedited egress means that police can arrive that much sooner to the next call for service. Overall, the E-Key system’s field performance has exceeded all expectations and has worked so well that Rulon even had E-Key installed on the Police Department’s own electronic security gate.

E-Key is Affordable

Considering Colton’s population of approximately 55,000, the E-Key system was affordable. Obsolete mechanical bypass keys are updated with secure electronically coded remote gate controls. The Police Department purchased transmitters to equip every emergency response vehicle in the City of Colton for about $3,000. Property owners are responsible for installing the corresponding E-Key receiver equipment on their gates at a cost of $450 per gate. The traditional keyed entry devices were maintained as a redundant back-up system that can be used to lock gates open during an extended response.

The Colton city council acknowledged that response delays caused by controlled access gates are an unacceptable public burden. In light of the significant benefits of the E-Key program, the city council adopted an ordinance that now requires the E-Key system on all gated communities.

Enthusiastic Response From The Public

E-Key represents the Colton Police Department’s continuing partnership with the community and unwavering commitment to provide excellence in service. E-Key has been enthusiastically received by property managers and the general public, who view the E-Key system as a way to help increase safety and police presence in their communities.

While at various city events, Rulon and City Manager Daryl Parrish continue toreceive positive feedback from property managers and citizens noting increased daily police patrols in their communities. Windrush Apartments Manager Christy Dana said, “I’m seeing more officers coming through on a regular basis. It’s had a really positive impact on residents and staff. I’m always concerned with getting a quick response, and with E-Key, police and fire can get here that much quicker.” Although not required by the city ordinance, several businesses have also requested to voluntarily install E-Key at commercial properties throughout the city.

Excellence in Service

The Colton Police Department provides E-Key signs to properties in Colton to help portray police in a positive light and establish an ongoing partnership with the community. E-Key signs depict the Colton Police Department’s logo, the E-Key symbol, and the abbreviated mission statement, “Excellence in Service.” The signs are printed on a reflectorized material with a clear laminate that resists graffiti and vandalism. The E-Key logo is quickly becoming a universally recognized symbol. Suitably equipped apartment communities may reference the E-Key system along with other property amenities and utilize the E-Key symbol in advertisements. Consumers can identify an E-Key-equipped property by looking for the official E-Key signs on driveway gates.

E-Key Attracts Attention From Other Cities

Since its inception, the E-Key system has attracted significant regional media coverage, which has resulted in numerous inquiries from other cities seeking to establish similar programs. The Colton Police Department believes that all emergency responders and citizens can realize the significant benefits of E-Key systems in their jurisdictions. Information is available to other agencies seeking to establish similar programs within their jurisdictions (see contact information below). Conditional license to use the E-Key name and symbol is available to government entities upon written request.

Police officers, property managers, city officials and citizens all agree – E-Key is an indispensable asset to the City of Colton. By affording an extra 40-plus seconds to help law enforcement save lives or get the drop on fleeing criminals, E-Key benefits the entire community in ways previously unattainable. Said Rulon, “E-Key has given us more bang for our buck than any other recent technology purchase. For about the cost of a laptop [computer], we have created something that truly benefits our entire community. I am confident that other cities throughout California can easily achieve similar results.”

Contact: Chief Kenneth Rulon, Colton Police Department; phone: (909) 370-5000; e-mail:

This article appears in the October 2006 issue of Western City
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