I work for a company which manufactures, sells and sometimes installs alzheimer patient wander alert systems.. To keep it short, the systems consist of 1) a small radio transmitter worn by a nursing home patient; 2) a radio receiver; & 3) a magnetic lock. When the patient nears the door, the transmitter is picked up by the receiver which sets an alarm off and engages the mag lock, thereby securing the door. (The systems meet the requirements of the NFPA LSC for use in Special Locking Arrangements)
The system's 12v transformer is plugged into a standard 110v receptacle. Some facilities have chosen to have their Maintenance staff install the systems, and in these cases, the Maintenance staff have had an Electrician tie in to the Exit lights in order to run wire for the receptacle. (basically to save money) In some states this isn't a problem, but in other states it might be. I have advised my company we should discourage this practice nationwide because I feel it is in violation of NEC 517-32. The company feels we should argue that our system is, in essence, a communication device used to alert nursing staff of an emergency situation which requires their response, and we should present this argument to Code Inspectors if they don't approve...
My Question: Who's right?
By the way, I'm not an electrician.. My job involves coordinating the installation of our systems in accordance with the state/local code.
You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have questions.
I'm not sure about the source of the power, but I would hope that the Receptacles are not in areas readily accessble to someone looking for a place to plug something else in or where the transformer could be unplugged or knocked out accidentally.
Re: 517-32 & Exit Lights#76156 12/20/0009:54 AM12/20/0009:54 AM
The receptacles have generally been mounted above drop ceilings so they are not accessible. In situations where there is no drop ceiling, the receptacles are mounted in attics or other locations which would prohibit anyone from disconnecting the system or plugging in anything else for that matter.
Tim, 517-32-d does seem to be applicable to your application, yet it may be interpreted differently , depending on your installation location. I know that the NFPA is quite a library, of which the average sparky like myself may only have NFPA 70, 72, maybe 101. I have also been told the more stringent code would apply, so it would behoove you to research this, hopefully to your advantage, in those books out of the electrical realm as well.
Re: 517-32 & Exit Lights#76158 12/21/0009:40 AM12/21/0009:40 AM
I've also posted this question on the IAEI (International Association of Electrical Inspectors) website and received quite a bit of information. It seems the Inspectors are leaning more towards allowing it under 517-32 (c) which provides that alarm systems may be tied in. This makes more sense because the system is an alarm, however, it also raises a new question: Because this section lists only fire alarms and alarms which are part of a system used for the piping of nonflammable medical gases, can an alarm which is neither of those be attached?
Another point I have mentioned on the IAEI site is that our system is connected to the fire alarm panel. Should the fire panel become actuated or disabled, our system is automatically disconnected. Because of this design (which is required by NFPA LSC 101, 5-184.108.40.206)our system can exert no additional drain on the LSB in the event of an emergency situation. Additionally, the system is UL tested and approved.
The point you raise regarding differing opinions depending on location is well taken. My job was just recently created by this company because of the nightmarish task of compiling a comprehensive dataset of every statute, rule, regulation and code which may apply to the installation/use of our systems in each of the 50 states & the District of Colombia. Not only must I gather the data regarding State Electrical Codes, but that related to Life Safety, Building Codes, Electrician Licensing, Contractor Licensing, State & Federal codes regarding nursing facilities, and, in some states, City and County Codes for all the above.
The reality is that there is nothing uniform about the application of these codes at the local levels. Even in jurisdictions which have adopted model codes, (such as the NEC) there are often amendments where they pick and choose how they will (or won't) apply certain sections. Top this off with the fact there is often very subjective interpretation of particular sections, and you could have a company such as mine becoming very frustrated, very quickly.