Yes, they do—and for several reasons. In addition to keeping the building occupants safe, most codes require electrical fire protection of some kind. When it comes to electrical cabinet fire protection, organizations like the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) have laid out guidelines for contractors and occupants alike. Learn about some essential building codes for electrical fire safety, and how an electrical room is laid out to promote a safer work environment for everyone.
Electrical Room Fire Codes: A Brief Overview
Several organizations create and refine the standards for fire safety in buildings. The building construction types currently identified by NFPA, and the International Code Council (ICC) falls into 10 subtypes in the NFPA and 9 subtypes in the ICC Systems. These construction types are recognized in NFPA 220 (standard on Types Of Building Construction). There are other standards internationally recognized NFPA 5000 (Building Construction and Safety Code ) and NFPA 101 (Life Safety Code). Keep in mind that these standards should be implemented during the building’s construction. If you are not a contractor or responsible for the building’s construction, some of these standards are simply things you should keep updated on for the safety of your workspace. Other processes do fall on your shoulders—particularly regarding the installation of fire protection equipment inside a space (such as fire alarms).
Below, we discuss a few examples of regulations that will commonly come up for electrical rooms.
What Is Section of NFPA 70E?
NFPA 70E is a set of voluntary standards for the workspace around any electrical equipment; these standards serve as a guide for both architects and contractors. NFPA 70E also states that the electrical room must receive an initial inspection from a legislated authority having jurisdiction (AHJ). The NFPA defines an AHJ as “an organization, office, or individual responsible for enforcing the requirements of a code or standard, or for approving equipment, materials, an installation, or a procedure.” An AHJ is most commonly a fire marshal, but that can vary depending on the building type and where it is located.
Section 110.26, though, is actually a subsection of an entirely different document—one that also pertains to electrical fire safety: the National Electric Code (NEC). Unlike NFPA 70E, the NEC is usually mandated by state or local law, and thereby not voluntary.
What Is the NEC Code for Electrical Rooms?
The National Electric Code (NEC) is the nationwide “benchmark for safe electrical design, installation, and inspection to protect people and property from electrical hazards.” The NEC lays out protocols that stipulate how a building can be constructed to best promote electrical safety. Certain sections of the NEC—namely, Section 110.26—pertain to electrical rooms specifically. The NEC also covers requirements regarding fire protection equipment, such as fire alarms and fire extinguishers. As stated previously, the NEC is often legally required to be followed when constructing a building or using a building’s spaces. Wherever NEC is mandated, failure to comply is punishable by law.
For electrical rooms, Section 110.26 requires “adequate working space for all electrical equipment.” This is to ensure that the equipment can be easily accessible to electricians, and that there is adequate space to prevent injury of occupants. Section 110.26 also mandates that there is enough space in the electrical room for service work to be done with the doors open, and for two people to pass by each other comfortably. Some subsections of NEC, like 110.26(C), even focus specifically on exit strategies in case of an emergency, such as requiring at least two exit doors with panic bars.
Contractors use the NEC as a guideline when they are constructing buildings, sometimes needing to make changes to an architect’s design so they can properly accommodate electrical safety requirements.
What Is IBC 2015 Section 705?
The 2015 International Building Code® (IBC®) is an extensive document of standards that applies to “all buildings except detached one- and two-family dwellings and townhouses up to three stories.” Chapter 7 of this document focuses on fire, and smoke protection features a building must have, and within that, Section 705 focuses on exterior walls. Section 705 outlines detailed specifications such as fire resistance, fire separation distance (FSD), and even where protection is required.
Stay Up to Date on Fire Safety—for Everyone’s Sake
Fire safety is important for everyone involved in the workspace. Standards from bodies like the NFPA keep employees safe, but they also keep maintenance workers safe while fixing building problems that may arise. Fire safety standards also ensure a building space is always prepared for fire emergencies, including having the proper equipment, protection, and alarm systems. As such, it’s important to routinely check if your office is doing everything possible to keep systems updated. Technology is rapidly evolving to improve fire safety, and a fire suppression system is a great way to keep your workspace safe and stay updated with fire regulations.