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I've seen a few of these in older buildings.

Reasoning behind them? Is there something like it in newer commercial buildings? Did it just go to a shunt trip?
 

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It does go to a shunt trip, I have put them in at the request of the FD before but those were special circumstances in mixed-occupancy buildings with industrial and residential space. Not familiar with a code that actually requires it.
 

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Code here requires exterior shut off (in most cases). It's generally done by installing a main breaker/switch outside.

The fire department wants the ability to easily shut off all power before running in and spraying water everywhere or chopping thru the roofs/ceilings.
 

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I did the shunt trip main a few years ago. Small strip mall, 120/208 service. Needed a big service (1/2 size of mall) ran a conduit over near the malls main disconnect with a kill button for the FD.
 

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We have building here with multiple main electric rooms service in two or more locations, it is a requirement of the fire department to have a shunt trip at the entrance to each main electric room, with notification on the door and at the shunt.
 
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