Morgantown’s Norwood Fire Station to become a safe surrender site

February 12, 2024

Upgrades at Norwood Fire Station include a safe surrender site

The Morgantown Fire Department’s Station 2, known as the Norwood Fire Station, is undergoing significant renovations that include not just modernized facilities and amenities but also the addition of a potentially life-saving feature—a baby box.

This initiative follows the recent legal endorsement in West Virginia, allowing such a facility to operate as a safe surrender site for infants.

The Morgantown City Council is set to discuss this new development during its monthly committee of the whole meeting.

The proposal seeks to amend city code in alignment with WV Code 49-4-206, enacted in the 2023 legislative session.

This law permits local fire departments, operating around the clock, to accept custody of infants 30 days old or younger anonymously.

A new law and a new beginning

The planned “newborn safety device” integrates into the station’s structure, enabling anonymous surrender from the outside.

It simultaneously alerts the fire personnel inside.

The staff is trained to cater to the immediate needs of the child, ensuring hospital transfer within 30 minutes of the surrender and notifying the Child Protective Services Division of the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Services within two hours.

Safe surrender laws, which began in Texas in the late 1990s, aim to prevent the abandonment of babies, a situation that has led to dire outcomes in the past.

The initiative at the Norwood Fire Station follows the installation of West Virginia’s first baby box by Marshall County EMS in November.

The significance of the Norwood Fire Station

The Norwood Fire Station, the oldest in the city, is positioned at the intersection of Sabraton Avenue and Hillcrest Street.

It has served the Morgantown Fire Department since July 1949, following the annexation of the city of Sabraton.

The station is currently being refurbished with a budget exceeding $1.7 million, anticipating the firefighters’ return from their temporary base at the Morgantown Municipal Airport within the next month or two.

Assistant City Manager Emily Muzzarelli highlighted the broader intent behind this project: “Neither of the other fire stations have been designated as safe surrender sites yet, but city administration sees the intrinsic value in providing a safe and legal alternative to abandoning newborns.

“As such, a safe haven baby box is being installed at the Norwood Fire Station, along with other renovations to the site.”

FSJA Comment

The inclusion of a safe surrender site at the Norwood Fire Station marks a critical step in addressing the issue of infant abandonment within the community.

By providing a secure and anonymous option for parents in crisis, Morgantown enhances the safety and welfare of the most vulnerable, aligning with a compassionate approach to public health and safety.

This initiative represents a proactive measure in safeguarding infants, supporting distressed parents, and preventing potential tragedies.

As more communities across the country adopt similar measures, the impact on child welfare could be profound, offering lessons in community care and preventive strategies.

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