ROUND ROCK, Texas (KXAN) — Automatic gates can provide communities a sense of safety and security. Through keypads and sensors, these gates grant access to residents and their guests, seemingly keeping out individuals who should not have access to the area.

In an emergency, when every second matters, these gates can delay first responders.

This was the case for the Ubalde family, who called Round Rock Police to their home on the night of April 23.

Neil Ubalde saw a young man attempting to break into one of the family’s cars and called 911. However, the officers could not get through the community’s gate. The responding officers called Ubalde.

“Lucky enough that my wife answered the call, because we don’t normally answer phone calls from numbers that we don’t recognize,” Ubalde said. “It was the police saying that they can’t get into the gate to assist us. We gave them our personally assigned gate code, and they were able to come in.”

While waiting for police, Ubalde’s son spoke with the perpetrator and diffused the situation, allowing them to leave the scene without incident. A peaceful resolution that regardless has Ubalde worried for the future.

“My main concern is the safety of the neighborhood,” Ubalde said. “If they can’t come in because of a malfunctioning gate, then how would they be able to assist us in this kind of a situation? If an ambulance or any other emergency vehicle cannot reach you, that will be a big problem.”

RRPD public information specialist Nicholas Olivier says that they rely on property owners to provide police with access codes. Alternatively, officers or dispatch might ask a caller to provide access.

“Sometimes property managers change and it takes us a few days to get updated codes,” Olivier said.

In case of fire, Austin’s fire code mandates that firefighters have access to any fire lanes beyond gates. Usually, this is accomplished by access keys that open gates and boxes with a master key.

According to AFD assistant fire chief Tom Vocke, single family dwellings with driveway and sidewalk gates are not required to provide AFD with a code.

“If you’re gonna put a gate in front of your home and you want us to have easy access without doing damage during our emergency response, I think it’s a wise decision,” Vocke said. “But if somebody drives by and there’s a fire at your home, when they call they’re not going to be able to provide access codes.”

According to Austin-Travis County EMS, frontline ambulances and command vehicles have access keys, and the department has a database of building and gate codes that are automatically sent to the responding unit.

“For all locations, our last option is to force entry into the structure. At the end of the day, we’re going to be able to get in somehow,” ATCEMS told KXAN in an email.

All ambulances carry a suite of tools for that purpose: halligan tool, crowbar, sledgehammer and bolt cutters.

ATCEMS recommends that 911 callers always provide any access codes to the dispatcher and open doors that might slow down EMS response.