To understand the importance of key control for cities, first think of all the departments that fall under municipal jurisdiction – from public works and local government to public housing and utilities. Now consider the sheer number of keys being used to secure the buildings, equipment, and vehicles utilized by each of these departments. If left unsecured, these keys, and the resources they control, become vulnerable to theft, loss, and misuse that compromises essential municipal services.

By implementing effective municipal key control measures, cities can mitigate the risks associated with unauthorized key access while maintaining the operational integrity of public works. This proactive approach not only safeguards against potential security breaches but also fosters accountability and responsible use of resources among city employees. In this way, cities and municipalities can establish a foundation of trust and confidence within their communities.

The Morse Watchmans City illustrates how intelligent inventory management and key control systems can be applied across a municipality to facilitate secure and efficient operations. From municipal asset management to city-wide key control, it’s all here. 

Just hover over and click the desired department for more information.

1. Public Works

The responsibilities of a Public Works department vary based on the size of the municipality and its specific needs; however, Public Works departments are largely charged with maintaining the city’s public infrastructure and even managing many of the services outlined below. To do this job effectively, Public Works employees therefore require access to shared resources such as buildings, vehicles, and tools. And with potentially hundreds of keys related to such access, key control systems help Public Works departments address the inefficiencies associated with issuing and returning shared keys across large number of employees.

The KeyWatcher Touch key management system enables the controlled storage of the keys and small assets required of public service workers. With the KeyWatcher Touch, access to these assets is limited and can be controlled based on job title, time, date, and more. What makes the KeyWatcher Touch especially well-suited for Public Works is the built-in KeyFind feature that lets administrators instantly audit any key so they can determine who took it out last, if it is overdue, and its transaction history. Administrators can also associate user groups with individual key cabinets, so there’s never a long line of personnel waiting to access a single unit. By maintaining control over who can access keys and having an automated audit trail of all key access activity, Public Works directors can prevent the theft, loss, and misuse of essential city resources.

Many Public Works departments have turned to facility key management systems because they integrate with existing access control systems to provide a second level of authorized access. With key management systems, authorized personnel can simply use their existing ID badges or other credentials to retrieve and return keys, while administrators can fine-tune access privileges according to the individual user and their existing permissions. And because Morse Watchmans key control systems can be networked, keys can be returned to any key cabinet anywhere in the city and the system will always know which cabinet they are in, who has them, and who has had them out.

2. Transportation

There are many keyed vehicles that fall under a city’s jurisdiction, including, but not limited to, buses, staff vehicles, shuttles, emergency vehicles, equipment transport vans, and more. Some departments even oversee boats, tractor trailers, construction equipment, and more. Working with and managing such a large number of vehicles no doubt creates a unique set of challenges for a municipality. This includes working with drivers, service technicians, and internal management to provide each with the tools, wheels, and information they need in a timely manner. 

Key control systems secure and protect the keys to any and all city-managed vehicles. They make it easy to get data on the current status of any bus, shuttle, or other vehicle at any time. Administrators can see what employee is using which vehicle now, and who was using it on the date it was tagged as running a red light. Administrators can also check at any time which vehicles are available for use, where they are, and where their keys are located. With key management systems, security and administrators can be assured that only authorized drivers take out approved vehicles, with alerts being issued when important vehicle keys are removed.

Municipal fleet management systems further ensure that each mode of transportation is correctly utilized and shared among city employees. For example, intuitive key reservation guarantees that a backhoe will be available for use by the Parks and Recreation department and will not already be in use by the Waste department. Policies can be further customized to enable automatic allocation of a vehicle for each driver. Configure settings by lowest mileage, most fuel, priority, first in/first out, and more. Each driver need only provide their credential and the key for their allocated vehicle will be released to them.

3. Parks and Recreation

The idea that public parks do not utilize keys due to their open and accessible nature is a common misconception. Although it is hard to imagine keeping an outdoor landscape under lock and key, Parks and Recreation teams require tools, equipment, and even vehicles that are worth protecting. The theft and sale of these items is a big business, with the culprits often originating from inside the department itself.

While landscaping tools and equipment are often locked behind a series of closed doors or storage facilities, if the key to one of these areas is accessible to all employees, then there is no way to accurately determine who accessed the equipment and when. Electronic key control for Parks and Recreation teams addresses such insider threats by providing audit capabilities that tracks a key’s removal and return to the key cabinet with both time and user specifications. Furthermore, individual keys can be tracked, so lost and misplaced keys become a thing of the past.

Fleet management systems also help Parks and Recreation departments manage and safeguard the vehicles utilized in day-to-day activities. From the trucks utilized to transport plants to ride-on mowers and snowplows, fleet management solutions enable control of when the vehicles are deployed, when they are returned, and who is authorized to drive them. The system can also restrict access to the vehicles to certain times of the day and limit certain users to specific vehicles. The result is a more secure, efficient fleet that is critical to the operations of all public recreation spaces.

4. Public Utilities

Water, electric, natural gas, waste management – these utilities define the critical infrastructure managed by local municipalities, with each requiring strict oversight. What sets utilities apart from all other internal departments is their impact on the public at large. A security breach at any one of these utilities has the potential to disrupt the safety and wellbeing of all residents if not properly managed. What’s more, public utilities are subject to intentional attacks of terrorism and sabotage that underscore the heightened need for security measures.

Key control for public utilities helps mitigate unauthorized access at these locales by delivering a phased approach for critical infrastructure security. The first phase is prevention, wherein key control systems limit access to utility sites by requiring authorized permissions to secured areas. Access to chemical storage cabinets, electrical closets, fleet vehicles, and sensitive equipment can all be controlled based on time, day, user title, and more. When coupled with an access control system, public utilities and their directors can implement a layered approach to physical security that requires multiple authorizations and facilitates a zero-trust environment.

The second phase is emergency response. In the event that there is a security breach, natural disaster, or other critical event at a utility site, key control systems provide first responders with fast, secured access to facility keys. This concept has culminated in the creation of Morse Watchman’s Emergency Key Grab (EKG) Kit, a comprehensive solution that includes hardware and educational materials, proving guidance for utility authorities on how to properly implement key control for emergency access. The last phase is disaster recovery. In the event a utility goes down for an extended period of time, electronic key control systems make it possible to efficiently account for all keys. If a key is lost, remedial actions can be taken to secure identified, vulnerable areas.

5. Public Housing

The primary function of key control for public housing is security; to prevent intrusion from people who don’t belong in the building. Key control delivers security for public housing by providing a safe, secure place to store building keys, thus reducing the likelihood of a break-in caused by a lost or stolen key. A lack of such security could cause a public housing development to be deemed unsafe, negatively impacting a city’s ability to properly care for their low-income citizens.

Because public housing developments require constant maintenance, often when building residents aren’t on site, key control systems allow for immediate key access by authorized individuals without property managers ever needing to set foot on site. Key management gives localized access to tradesmen, such as plumbers or HVAC, without giving access to the entire building. If there’s a water leak or heating issue in the absence of the tenant, repairs can be made quickly and widespread damage can be mitigated thanks to localized access provided by key control systems. And should there be a fire, injury, or other emergency, the availability of keys on-site is the best way for first responders to render life-saving care quickly.

With a key management system, each of the above situations would be safely and efficiently handled. An authorized individual would remove the required key from an electronic key cabinet, and later return it after it has been used. All actions, including the name of the person who removed and returned the key, along with the time of each action, are logged in the system with an audit trail. Key control boxes can also be networked to utilize a single common database for multiple units across multiple multi-tenant properties.

6. Government

Local government buildings, such as courthouses and city halls, are bound to utilize physical keys to secure offices, critical files, laptops, government property, and more. By turning every key into a data point, key control systems ensure that government employees are working ethically, safely, and transparently. Electronic key cabinets can only be opened by users with the proper authorizations and cannot be manipulated or easily tampered with. The forensic trail produced by key control systems (who took out a key, where, when, etc.) further provides invaluable evidence in the event of an incident as knowing who had possession of a particular key and when is critical information when investigating allegations of misconduct.

Deploying key control in government buildings is unique as there is always a level of turnover within the leadership ranks. Department heads change and elected officials’ terms end, meaning those managing keys to various areas of government buildings are always changing. Key control systems accommodate these changes while reducing the risk of missing keys. Access to certain keys can be revoked or granted when and where required. And with “notes” functionality, it can be required that if any key is permanently removed from the electronic key cabinet, the transaction must be documented. 

Key control systems also enable certain government agencies to maintain a verifiable chain of custody over evidence, legal documents, and other personally identifiable information – all essential components in the legal process covered under a series of privacy laws. This includes the Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) Policy, which is a set of guidelines designed to provide adequate security controls for the management, transmission, and storage of criminal justice information (CJI). Key control and asset management solutions can help agencies meet this imperative and maintain compliance by enforcing strict access control procedures. By controlling access to sensitive files, and the devices that store them, such solutions offer local governments a path to stronger regulatory compliance.

7. Emergency Response

In the event of an emergency, communities and municipalities of all sizes depend on the fast action and skilled assistance of first responders. But so much more goes on behind the scenes for law enforcement, firefighters, EMTs, and paramedics prior to and after arriving at a job site. In order for these public servants to properly respond to developing situations, equipment such as weapons, life-saving materials, medication, evidence, and fleet vehicles are required. Failure to properly maintain control over any one of these critical assets could be costly.

While police, fire, and EMS departments serve different functions, they all share the responsibility of overseeing necessary, often dangerous equipment. For law enforcement, this may include gear such as a two-way radio or personal weapon. EMS facilities and ambulances are frequently stocked with valuable equipment and drugs. An asset management system ensures that all such mission-critical materials are safely stored within a secure location. Access to such equipment is only granted to those with the proper authorizations while the system delivers real-time data regarding where each asset is stored within the system, who has removed or returned an item, and when those actions occurred.

Given the enormous weight that is on emergency response teams to prepare the unthinkable, Morse Watchmans created the Emergency Key Grab (EKG) Kit for swift, secured access to emergency keys. The new EKG Kit centers around Morse Watchmans’ proprietary electronic key control system, the KeyWatcher Touch, and includes additional materials and support required to provide first responders with fast, protected access to facility keys in the event of an active shooter, natural disaster, or other emergency. Key control for emergency access, like that delivered by the EKG Kit, significantly improves both private and public building security during critical incidents and gives community members peace of mind, knowing that the space they are occupying is equipped with robust security measures to handle emergencies efficiently.

Contact Us for More Information



Other Markets

Law Enforcement

Protect radios, body cameras, weapons and more with our key and asset management solutions.



Track and distribute radios, secure cash boxes, and manage keys at your store or other retail location with KeyWatcher and AssetWatcher.