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What is the fireman’s switch emergency disconnect requirement for residential electrical service?
Sunday, November 7, 2021
Emergency Power Shut-Off Code
It’s informally called a fireman’s switch, but referred to in the National Electrical Code (NEC 230.85) as an emergency disconnect. They have been required for commerical building for quite a while, but the 2020 edition of the NEC made it mandatory for new construction and the replacement or relocation of existing electrical panels in one- and two-family homes.
The intention is to allow firemen to quickly shut off the power before entering the house. Some residences and all mobile homes already have an outside service disconnect. But many have the service panel in the garage, hallway, or bedroom. So a fireman has to pull the meter assembly out of the box to shut off all power to the house.
The service disconnect has always been required to be marked as MAIN DISCONNECT, but the new code specifies an EMERGENCY DISCONNECT, MAIN DISCONNECT label, and it must be at a “readily accessible outdoor location."
Although this new requirement was added to the 2020 edition of the NEC, it may not be required by your local building department yet. New editions of the NEC appear every three years, but must be formally adopted by the local governmen jurisdiction. Often it’s several years before that happens. For more on this, see our article Is the latest edition of the National Electrical Code (NEC) the standard used for the electrical system of new homes?
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