Is it legal to lock a main breaker box?

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I have a friend who runs a business. Their main breaker is on the outside of the building right along a busy back alley. Inside the building directly behind that main breaker is the panel with all the individual breakers. The box looks similar to this:
http://www.solarpanelstore.com/assets/ch_dpb222r.jpg
If you look on the bottom, there is the tab that sticks out with the hole, which is meant for a small padlock. The problem is that the box, had a plastic tab. Why the manufacturer used a plastic tab (the rest of the box is metal), is beyond me. It had a lock on it, but the plastic tab broke off, and ever since people keep shutting off the power at least once a month. That affects all kinds of electronic equipment inside, and disrupts business. The business owner is a woman who dont understand all the technical issues, she just wants the box to be tamper proof. I told her I'd see what can be done, and will install something if possible.
I suggested drilling a few holes and putting a hasp on the box, with pop rivets and padlocking it, but I tend to wonder if there is any sort of legal requirements. I suppose in the event of a fire, the Fire Dept might want to shut off the power. This makes me question what to do. I'm also not sure who to ask locally about this? Maybe the power company?????
Anyone know anything about this?
One other thought was to drill a hole right below that slot and just use a cable tie through the slot and the hole. Anyone can cut it off, but it might be enough to discourage them. Right now all they need to do is lift the cover and shut off the breaker. At least a cable tie would require more effort by tamperers, and still be easily cut in an emergency.
Is this covered in the USA electrical codes? I dont have the book. (Are the codes available online?)
Gene
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On Sat, 09 Jun 2012 03:16:49 -0500, snipped-for-privacy@none.com wrote:

This comes under the definition of readily accessible. You are allowed to put disconnects and overcurrent devices behind a locked door to prevent access by unauthorized persons as long as all tenants have a key.
The fire department is not an issue. If they want in, they will get in.
The NFPA 70 handbook says "The definition of readily accessible does not preclude the use of a locked door for service equipment or rooms containing service equipment, provided those for whom ready access is necessary have a key (or lock combination) available."
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On Jun 9, 4:31 am, snipped-for-privacy@aol.com wrote:

You are so full of shit, may AHJ's require total access to buildings protected by a fire alarm system which is connected to the fire departments dispatcher...
So yes, given the commercial occupancy access to the main utility cut offs no matter what flavor is something the fire department will have a say over...
A lock box containing keys which open the whole building is how a lot of those AHJ's define "readily accessible"...
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On Sat, 9 Jun 2012 10:56:14 -0700 (PDT), Evan

And your qualifications to call someone who quotes NFPA "full of shit" is ???
Cite the NEC rule that says the disconnect can't be inside a locked door.
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On Sat, 09 Jun 2012 14:53:34 -0400, snipped-for-privacy@aol.com wrote:

Darn thing should be INSIDE the building, for starters. In the office building where I work every morning, both the main transformer vault and the electrical service room, which contains a couple smaller transformers, main disconnect, several timers and 2 sub panels are under lock and key at all times. 2 other sub-panels are located in the kitchen. All 4 sub-panels have key-locks on the doors, but are not locked. This is in Canada - so could be different in the USA.
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On Jun 9, 2:53 pm, snipped-for-privacy@aol.com wrote:

You are full of shit as far as this quote:
"The fire department is not an issue. If they want in, they will get in. "
By your own quotation of the the NFPA regs your statement of the above is bullshit as the fire department is one entity to whom ready access to the utility cut offs is mandatory...
The NEC is one set of standards which must be complied with, in commercial occupancies you can not get an certificate of occupancy unless the fire department also signs off, not just the wiring or building inspector... Having a lock on a main disconnect or having that disconnect located in a locked closet or room would not be "readily accessible" per NEC nor as defined by the fire department without providing a key which is secured in a fire department only accessible lock box...
So it seems that any proposed solution which does not need both the NFPA criteria as well as the NEC (or whatever local electrical code being enforced) for being "readily accessible" would not pass muster which includes any ideas which leave the fire department wanting for a key to the main shut offs of any utility...
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snipped-for-privacy@aol.com wrote:

Is the National Electrical Code available online? -- Yes, here: http://www.garnernc.gov/Publications/Inspections/2008%20National%20Electrical%20Code.pdf
It is read-only and you can't print it out or cut and paste from the document, but it is free, and this link does not require people to set up a free account or log in.

Thanks for that answer. I am interested in the same question as the OP about whether it is okay to put a lock on this outside main cutoff.
From what you wrote, it seems like it is okay. Maybe also giving a copy of the key to the local fire department would be considered the appropriate protocol. But, if it is a small padlock, all local fire departments carry bolt cutters on their vehicles so cutting off the padlock in the event of an emergency would be no problem for them even without a key.
Do you happen to know where the citation in the NEC about this is located? The free online version of the NEC is a little cumbersome to use so finding the correct citation is sometimes a problem.
For those who posted that the contractor should not have put the main cutoff outside, that is a requirement in some areas for some types of buildings (commercial, multiple dwellings, etc). And, my understanding is that the purpose is so that the local fire department can cut off the power in an emergency.
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Access to the service disconnect is in 230.70(A)(1) "(1) Readily Accessible Location. The service disconnecting means shall be installed at a readily accessible location either outside of a building or structure or inside nearest the point of entrance of the service conductors."
Readily accessible is defined in article 100
"Accessible, Readily (Readily Accessible). Capable of being reached quickly for operation, renewal, or inspections without requiring those to whom ready access is requisite to climb over or remove obstacles or to resort to portable ladders, and so forth."
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snipped-for-privacy@aol.com wrote:

Thanks. That really helped and I was able to go right to those sections.
Since Ed showed me how I can do a cut and paste from the NEC, here is a cut and paste of some of the sections:
===> Accessible (as applied to equipment). Admitting close
approach; not guarded by locked doors, elevation, or other
effective means.
Accessible (as applied to wiring methods). Capable of
being removed or exposed without damaging the building
structure or finish or not permanently closed in by the structure
or finish of the building.
Accessible, Readily (Readily Accessible). Capable of being
reached quickly for operation, renewal, or inspections
without requiring those to whom ready access is requisite
to climb over or remove obstacles or to resort to portable
ladders, and so forth.
230.70 General. Means shall be provided to disconnect all
conductors in a building or other structure from the service entrance
conductors.
(A) Location. The service disconnecting means shall be
installed in accordance with 230.70(A)(1), (A)(2), and
(A)(3).
(1) Readily Accessible Location. The service disconnecting
means shall be installed at a readily accessible location
either outside of a building or structure or inside nearest the
point of entrance of the service conductors.
(2) Bathrooms. Service disconnecting means shall not be
installed in bathrooms.
(3) Remote Control. Where a remote control device(s) is
used to actuate the service disconnecting means, the service
disconnecting means shall be located in accordance with
230.70(A)(1).
<== One thing that I thought was interesting is the first definition of "Accessible (as applied to equipment)" which is,
"Accessible (as applied to equipment). Admitting close approach; not guarded by locked doors, elevation, or other
effective means."
I wonder if that throws a slight curve into to question of whether the service panel door can be locked -- under the meaning of "not guarded by locked doors".
I still think that putting a small padlock on the outside main service disconnect would be okay (with the building tenants, the fire department, etc. having a key), but I am not 100% positive about that yet.
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The thing about the NEC is you have to be looking at the right language to make a decision. In the case of service disconnects it says "readily accessible" and that is the language you use.
I posted the commentary from the NFPA 70 handbook that says this does not preclude locked cabinets or locked doors as long as the appropriate maintenance people have a key. It is very rare that a panel or an equipment room in a public area of a commercial installation will NOT be locked.

The fire department is not going to take and store a key. The fie department may want a key box that is available to them using THEIR key. That is the standard thing in SW Florida.
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On Sat, 09 Jun 2012 20:28:28 -0400, snipped-for-privacy@aol.com wrote:

Leaves room for interpretation as to a lock. Any electrical box should be in a clear path.
OTOH, turning out the lights is a danger situation and the lock prevents accidents or even death.
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You can save it (all 840 pages) on your hard drive as a PDF file. Then, as you see below, you can copy and paste. Thanks for the link.
IMPORTANT NOTICES AND DISCLAIMERS CONCERNING NFPA DOCUMENTS NOTICE AND DISCLAIMER OF LIABILITY CONCERNING THE USE OF NFPA DOCUMENTS NFPA codes, standards, recommended practices, and guides, of which the document contained herein is one, are developed through a consensus standards development process approved by the American National Standards Institute. This process brings together volunteers representing varied viewpoints and interests to achieve consensus on fire and other safety issues. While the NFPA administers the process and establishes rules to promote fairness in the development of consensus, it does not independently test, evaluate, or verify the accuracy of any information or the soundness of any judgments contained in its codes and standards.

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That is translated to the code is written by a group of industry reps and building code officials and suggested changes come from anyone who wants to write a proposal. This becomes a model code that is adopted almost universally as law in the US and many other countries. Then the AHJs and legislatures make amendments. After that the AHJs decide what it means to them in their patch. Such is the business.
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Ed Pawlowski wrote:

Thanks for pointing that out. That worked. I know that the free version that is on the NFPA.org website doesn't allow cut and paste etc. I think the only reason that they post a free read-only version is to comply with a legal decision that stated that if they are going to create regulations that apply to the public (if adopted by local governmental entities), they have to make them available for free.
But, I guess that since the link that I posted is from the Garner, North Carolina government website, they decided that they are entitled to post a pdf copy the regulations that they adopted (2008 NEC) and make it both free and able to be cut-and-pasted, printed, etc.
I ran into a similar problem recently when I was trying to cut and past a page from the 2006 International Residential Code. The only free version that I could find online was one that would not permit a cut and paste.
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Did you look here
http://www2.iccsafe.org/states/florida_codes /
Plug in your state.
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wrote:

Thanks. I did find that before at http://www.ecodes.biz/ecodes_support/Free_Resources/NewJersey/2009/09NJ_Residential/09NJResidential_main.html,but I can only do a read-only of the document, no cut-and-paste, no printingcopies of pages, etc.
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http://www.ecodes.biz/ecodes_support/Free_Resources/NewJersey/2009/09NJ_Residential/09NJResidential_main.html,but I can only do a read-only of the document, no cut-and-paste, no printingcopies of pages, etc.
That is strange but maybe just a New Jersey thing. I can copy/paste and print the Florida code. Maybe it is because Florida rewrites the code into legislation and not just adopted
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That's what I was thinking too. You don't necessarily need a strong lock on it. Just a small lock will discourage 99.9% of the problem. With nothing on it, any kid walking by can see it as an invitation for mischef and just open it and flip it off. With even a small padlock, they are unlikely to bother screwing with it.
Also, regarding the fire department in a fire emergency, around here they typically don't go looking for the disconnect. They go looking for the meter and pull it out. If the meter is outside and accessible, then I wouldn't worry about the fire dept not being able to cut power.
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snipped-for-privacy@optonline.net wrote:

Interesting. I had not thought about the option of the fire department pulling the meter to cut the power.
One reason that I am interested in this topic is that I have two properties in the same town that I bought a few years ago. One is a 2-family duplex with all separate utilities for each tenant and the other is a 3-family triplex with all separate utilities for each tenant. After buying each one, I had new electric service installed in both properties.
I had the 2-family duplex done first. For that one, which already had a separate service panel in the basement for each tenant, the question came up about whether both tenants had access to the basement. The electrician explained that with new service being installed, the code required that each tenant have access to their own service panel and the main service disconnect. Since both tenants have access to the basement (and the service panels) -- meaning they each have a key to the basement -- it was okay for both service panels and main disconnects to be in the basement. As part of the new service upgrade, the electric meters for each unit were moved to the outside and mounted on the front wall of the property.
From the NEC citation that gfretwell posted I found this that refers to that requirement:
230.70 (C) Access to Occupants. In a multiple-occupancy building,
each occupant shall have access to the occupant's service
disconnecting means.
Then, when I had new service installed in the 3-family triplex, I already had service panels and a main disconnect in each of the three tenants' apartments. With the new service, I was also adding a separate "house" panel for the outside lighting etc. And, as before, I was having the electric meters moved to the outside of the building where each service entered the building. But, this time, because the property had 3 or more dwelling units, the local officials required that the 3 tenant services and 1 house service each have an outside main service disconnect. And, in my case, each of the 4 main service disconnects on the outside of the building look similar to what the OP has on his building.
My original plan was for the main service disconnects to be inside the building, right where each service came in, but inside a utility room that only the property owner (me) could access with a key. Then, in each apartment, they would each have their own existing service panel (actually a subpanel), each with its own main cutoff breaker. But, that wasn't okay with the local code officials, so all 4 main service disconnects are now on the outside of the building.
I understand why they have that requirement (fire department and other emergency shutoff capability etc), but it made me a little uncomfortable since anyone walking by could (and still can) turn off the power to any or all apartments at any time. All that I have on each outside service disconnect box now is a short twisted piece of 12 gauge wire holding each box closed (where a padlock could go). Seems a little strange to me, but that's how it is. And, it has been 2 years of so since they were installed and no one has bothered to tamper with the boxes since then. Nevertheless, I am curious if it really would be okay for me to put small padlocks on each one -- if any problems with tampering do seem to start up.
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*You can go ahead and put padlocks on the outside disconnects as long as each tenant will receive a key. There are special padlocks that are made to be cut with a bolt cutter that I have seen on fire sprinkler valves and fence gates to electrical equipment. The locks have a notch cut into them making it easier to cut. I think McMaster-Carr sells them.
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