Keys, combos and contractors

The contracting company I work for takes care of 40-50 radio stations at any given time spanning from NYC and southern Connecticut up to the Canadian boarder.  Stations or groups sign contracts and some go by the wayside on a fairly regular basis.  All of this makes for the “Giant Box of Keys,” to be carried around in the work truck or whatever vehicle one is driving while on call.

Giant box of keys
Giant Box of Keys

The problem with the Giant Box of Keys is it never seems to be up to date.  New stations or groups join and didn’t get added.  Other stations fire employees and feel compelled to change the locks after doing so.  Therefore, I have found the Giant Box of Keys to be a hit or miss proposition.  In my former life as Director of Engineering for Pamal Broadcasting and Dame Media before that, I sought to simplify things as much as possible.

Master self set combination lock
Master self set combination lock

I found that replacing all keyed pad locks with self set combo locks made life much easier.  All of the tower fences, transmitter site fences and road gates now had the same combination and could be changed to another combination easily if needed.  That eliminated digging trough drawers looking for tower fences keys and or long walks back to the transmitter building because I forgot the key or the key didn’t work. Taking that a step further, I began to replace the door locks with these:

Simplex 1041 combination door lock
Simplex 1041 combination door lock

Unfortunately, those door locks are a good deal more expensive than the pad locks, somewhere between $300-400 per copy.  I only got a few done before the end came.  An alternative to this is a key lock box:

Master key lock box
Master key lock box

Of course, these are not fool proof either.  Occasionally, some previous user will forget to put the key back in the box.  I have also had one such box frozen under a lump of ice and once somebody swiped the whole box off of the wall with the aid of a sledge hammer or something.

There are some places where this approach will not work, such as high security sites or leased sites where the land lord dictates the lock policy.

Still, whenever possible, using combo locks saves time and money in the long run.  Rather than using precious engineering hours to make and distribute copies of keys, we can be more focused on doing real engineering work.