Warsaw close to adopting Safe Haven Baby Box plan

(Photo supplied/LaPorte County Sheriff's Office)

Final approval for establishing a Safe Haven Baby Box at Fire Station No. 2 in Warsaw is now one step away.

Warsaw-Wayne Fire Territory approved plans on Tuesday to install a baby box on the west side of the building – near the firefighters’ living quarters – and the proposal now heads to city council for final approval on Feb. 19.

Mayor Joe Thallemer, who was presented with the idea of installing a baby box in Warsaw last year, outlined several precautions the baby box system offers if a mother drops off a newborn.

The boxes have three ways to alert authorities if a baby is placed inside the box, he said: a motion detector, a button that can be pressed by the person dropping off the baby and another alert when the door is opened.

The city also plans to establish another safeguard by having the system connected to alert emergency dispatch. That measure is expected to cost $2,000 to $3,000 and will be covered by  the city.

Cost of the climate-controlled box is about $10,000 and is being covered by North Central Indiana Right To Life. That group has also agreed to pay a $200 annual service fee, Thallemer said.

The plan was approved unanimously.

Fire Chief Mike Wilson said he was told of two incidents in which babies have been abandoned in the area.

The boxes are viewed as a last option for mothers who don’t want to keep their baby.

Once an alarm is sounded, EMTs respond and then are required to take the baby to a hospital for a medical review.

Thallemer said fire station No. 2 was chosen because of its proximity to a hospital.

“Will we ever use it? I hope not,” Thallemer said. “I feel we are doing our part by providing a space while the local Right To Life (group) is funding this box.”

“It allows us to do our part as a public entity,” he said.

Board member Michael Klondaris said he was “a bit” skeptical at first, but said he believes the “pros outweigh the cons.”

Brandon Schmitt, a former firefighter, who joined the territory board Tuesday, said  the service help build more rapport with residents.

“I think it’s good for the community,” Schmitt said.

Fire Territory attorney Andrew Grossnickle said he worked with the city attorney and supported changes in a contract with Safe Haven Baby  Box. One item that was removed was an indemnity clause that would have absolved Safe Haven of any liability. Thallemer said that was an issue the city was insistent on.

The box will be owned by Safe Haven Baby Box and could be retrieved by the group if the territory chooses to discontinue the service.

Safe Haven, of Woodburn, has several boxes in use across the state and many more elsewhere.

To learn more about the group and see pictures of the boxes, search Safe Haven Baby Box on Facebook.