Baby box, ladder truck among new features at Norwood Fire Station

Apr. 15—The City of Morgantown's new Safe Haven Baby Box was officially opened as part of a ceremony at the Morgantown Fire Department's newly renovated Norwood Fire Station Monday afternoon.

"This Safe Haven Baby Box is now open for women in this community and beyond. This box offers no shame, no blame and no name, " said Mariah Betz, assistant project coordinator for Safe Haven Baby Boxes, following a blessing from the Rev. Larry Buckland of Suncrest United Methodist Church.

In February, Morgantown City Council passed an ordinance that designated Norwood Fire Station as a safe surrender site, in line with West Virginia legislation code 49-4-206.

The baby box, which is located on the front of the building and to the right of the main garage doors at the Norwood Station, is 217th baby box in the nation and 2nd in the state of West Virginia — the other is in Moundsville.

These boxes "give mothers another option to safely surrender their baby anonymously and lovingly, " Betz said. Since the organization installed the first box in Indiana in 2016, 43 babies have been surrendered in the boxes and 140 parents were given help to surrender in person.

Once a baby is placed inside the box, the door will lock upon closing and a 60-second silent alarm begins, giving the parent time to leave the area without being identified. An audible alarm will then sound inside the station as well as immediately call MECCA 911 dispatch.

If the firefighters on duty are not out on a call, they will be able to get the baby immediately. If not, within 2 1 /2 minutes of the alarm, either EMS or personnel from another station will respond to get the baby.

Firefighter 1st Class Derek Porter, who has served 26 years as part of EMS and 17 years as a firefighter, said he has been part of some very negative and unspeakable outcomes for infants and children over his career.

"Having the ability for these children to be safely surrendered and given a better life means a lot, " he said.

Porter pointed out that in the Morgantown area, there is not only the possibility of first-time moms who suffer from post-partum depression who find themselves wanting to harm or injure a child, but there is also a serious opioid epidemic.

"Out of the children who are fostered here, 7, 200 of those kids are there based on opioid addiction, " he said. "As we deal with those things, we have this availability to be able to take care of that child and give that child a better chance at life instead of the unspeakable and the other things that can happen out of that."

"Part of the Morgantown Fire Department's core mission is to preserve life, " said Fire Chief Eugene Deem. "For us to be able to play even a small role in saving an infant's life by providing parents with a safe and anonymous way to surrender a child is monumental."

In addition to officially opening the baby box, the department gave tours of the newly renovated Norwood Fire Station, which Morgantown Deputy Director of Engineering and Public Works Meagan Deely said includes a new designated workout area, expanded living space and kitchen area, and six individual private bunks along with a new bathroom and a single bathroom.

"They will have a much better living area while they are serving the community, " Deely said of firefighters.

The department was also showing off its brand-new, 100-foot Pierce Ascendant ladder truck, which has the ability to go 100 feet vertical and 93 feet horizontal.

Firefighter 1st Class Chris Deberry said the ladder truck can flow 2, 000 gallons of water a minute and can handle 1, 000 pounds in the basket at 100 feet and has some features the current ladders do not have.

"This one can go negative, so we can go below grade to maybe get somebody out of water or to go down over an embankment or whatever the case is, " he said.

"The other benefit to that is if we are rescuing people out of a building, we can quickly get them to the ground and out of the bucket and go up and get more where other ladders you have to stretch way out to get to the ground. This one can be retracted all the way, so you don't need as much room to get people to the ground and go back up and get more."

Deberry said the new truck also features rear all-steer, meaning the back wheels turn as well as the front giving the truck the turning radius of the smaller engines, which will allow it to go down tighter streets and around sharper turns.

The new ladder will replace the 1996 model truck currently being used. It will be kept by the department for use if needed.

It will still be a few weeks until the new ladder is in service as MFD is in the process of getting all the necessary equipment mounted. Deberry said firefighters will receive formal training from representatives from Pierce on how to use all the features and the truck's capabilities and limitations.

"It's great for the citizens of the city and we'll get trained on it and learn how to set it up well and use it to its full potential, " he said.

The Norwood Fire Station is at 100 Hillcrest St., off Sabraton Avenue in Morgantown. To find out more about Safe Haven Baby Boxes or where other boxes are located nationwide, visit