Indiana has what’s called a Safe Haven Law where a newborn can be left at a medical facility, police station or fire station. The person who leaves it won’t be prosecuted or arrested if the child doesn’t appear to have signs of abuse. If someone does leave a child, it can be done without question or judgment. No information has to be given regarding the baby. Once the infant is examined and given medical treatment, (if needed), they are then turned over to the Indiana Department of Child Services who will then locate a caregiver for the child.
Lt. Chuck Kohler, 37 is a Volunteer Firefighter with the Coolsprings Fire Department. He’s been with the department for seven years. Kholer was on his way to run an errand when his beeper went off.
“There was a medical alarm at the fire station, which means that someone opened the baby box,” he tells PEOPLE. “I live right around the corner from the fire station so I was there in about 30 seconds.”
He rushed to the station. There had been false alarms before, but Kohler knew this was the real deal. “When I went inside I could hear the baby crying,” he says. “I opened the door to where the box is, and I found the baby in there.”
There being the Safe Haven Baby Box. He put on protective gloves to inspect the baby. “My father instincts kicked in. I wanted to make sure the baby was okay,” he tells PEOPLE. “I checked to make sure the umbilical cord wasn’t bleeding, and that the baby wasn’t injured. After I figured out it was okay, I just held it until the paramedics came.”
Monica Kelsey founded the official Baby Boxes. The one at the Coolsprings Fire Department was installed around two years ago. The boxes have three alarms: One for cooling and heating and another for extreme weather.
Kohler said the box worked perfectly. “There was anxiety and adrenaline. I opened a box, and there was a baby in there,” the father of five tells PEOPLE. “I was holding the baby and rocking back and forth with the baby because it was natural. It felt natural. All I wanted to do was make sure the baby was okay.”
People were curious about the box; they’d open it on occasion. Nothing would be inside. Chief Mick Pawlik found an infant named “Baby Hope” inside last November.
Kohler realizes the importance of the box now more than ever. ”We’re prepared for this. Probably 98 percent [of Coolspring firefighters] have medical training,” he tells PEOPLE. “You can’t judge anybody for doing this. This is a wonderful thing. It’s a great alternative for what could’ve happened to the baby. We want to thank the mother for making this decision as hard as it was.”
We have to agree; no one knows what the person giving up this baby experienced. We’re just glad the child is safe.
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