National Electrical Installation Standards

Standards as High as Your Own

Tuesday, June 12, 2018


Re: CQD answer published Thursday, May 10, 2018 - Locking Equipment

In an emergency situation, ‘first responders’ such as firefighters may need to get access to a locked electrical room area or enclosure (as allowed per 110.26(F) , 110.31 & 490.35). Are there requirements or other guidance for enabling access for the first responders into those locked areas, if for example, the qualified persons with the access keys are not available at the time of the emergency.

In other words, the doors are being locked to keep unqualified persons out in normal circumstances, but in an emergency situation, we don’t want to excessively hamper access for the ‘first responders’. Is there any guidance on accommodating access for first responders to locked areas such as this?

Thanks, Chris Walker



Hey Chris thanks for your follow up question. Not really, at least not in the NEC. There are some rules in 645.10 and 690.12 that include wording about first responders but not rules that specifically prohibit locking doors or equipment enclosures. There are some provisions in other documents such as Fire Codes that authorize fire code officials to require key boxes under certain conditions.

There is an effort to add a rule for outdoor readily accessible emergency disconnecting means for one and two family dwelling units in the 2020 NEC. When the First Draft Report is available, scheduled posting date is July 6, 2018 you can look at the proposed change to add 230.85 based on First Revision No. 8462 and submit any comments you have at under the Next Edition Tab. Based on the definition of Accessible, Readily in Article 100 that disconnecting means could still be locked.

The concern you have is valid and has been asked by others. But some firefighters have suggested that locks on doors are not a problem - they have axes, power tools and other techniques to get through them!

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ABOUT CHARLIE: Charles M. Trout, better known as Charlie, was a nationally known NEC® expert and author. He served on several NEC® technical committees and is past chairman of CMP-12. In 2006 Charlie was awarded the prestigious Coggeshall Award for outstanding contributions to the electrical contracting industry, codes and standards development, and technical training. Charlie was also a member of NECA’s Academy of Electrical Contracting. Charlie’s experienced team of industry experts keep the CQD dialogue and discussions active and informative in the spirit of the man himself, as he wanted.

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