MELISSA — For elderly, infirm or incapacitated individuals seeking immediate help from Melissa first responders, opening the front door may be the most difficult part of the encounter.

Fortunately, there’s a program, administered by the Melissa Fire Department, that is targeted specifically to homes where this worrisome issue may arise. It’s called the Knox Home Box Key Program, a non-destructive method of entering selected residences where occupants are either not present or are unable to open a locked entryway.

The program is available free of charge to those homes that are deemed eligible, Fire Capt. Jake Leonard said.

“Homes in which residents may become unable to allow first responders inside can present an additional problem for us,” he said. “Not only are we dealing with the real emergency within the home, but we are also faced with the difficulties of reaching that individual. The Knox Home Box Key Program solves that second issue immediately, allowing us to take care of the original problem.”

The Knox Home Box Key Program includes storage lockboxes that are a safe and secure method of stowing entry keys that firefighters or emergency medical technicians can use to gain access to locked homes.

These devices are vital to homeowners or occupants who may become incapacitated and unable to open a door, or who may not be present, when an emergency occurs. Responding fire department personnel can gain entry to the residence by unlocking the lockbox, securing the keys to the structure and entering without damaging the property. First responders are the sole holders of the lockbox keys.

The initial set of Knox Home Box Key participants were identified by Melissa Fire Department records, which revealed the homes where the devices were best utilized. These included occupants who are likely to be impaired, include children with special needs, or who are frequently absent from the location. A donation from the Melissa Rotary Club was used to purchase the initial batch of lockboxes.

The program is now being expanded to include additional homes and residences.

“Our mission is to save lives and protect property, but we can be hampered by obstacles like locked doors,” Leonard said. “This program gives us the ability to get to those people who need our assistance quickly and safely.”

Individuals seeking to apply for participation in the program will be evaluated and prioritized. To be considered for the program, homeowners or their caretakers should contact to initiate the process.