New language in the NEC® provides guidance
NFPA Journal®, January/February 2008
By John Nicholson
Often NFPA codes and standards are related to each. For example, Article 708 of the 2008 edition of the National Electrical Code® (NEC®) references the requirements of NFPA 1600, Disaster/Emergency Management and Business Continuity Programs and for the revised edition of NFPA 99, Health Care Facilities, the Technical Committee on Emergency Management and Security is also coordinating the new edition with the requirements of NFPA 1600.
While NFPA 99 is a work in progress and is currently in the Annual 2009 revision cycle, the new edition of the NEC is in use and providing valuable guidance on the need for businesses and other organizations that must stay on line during a disaster or when the utility grid is down
Article 708 is a new section within the NEC that applies to the electrical installation, operation, supervision, and maintenance of critical operations power systems. These systems consist of circuits and equipment intended to automatically supply, distribute, and control electricity to designated operations in the event of disruption to elements of the normal system intended to supply, distribute, and control power essential for continuity of vital operations. Support for the original proposal came from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
In addition, the NEC states: “Critical operations power systems are generally installed in vital infrastructure facilities that, if destroyed or incapacitated, would disrupt national security, the economy, public health or safety; and where enhanced electrical infrastructure for continuity of operation has been deemed necessary by governmental authority.”
According to the NEC, the provisions of Article 708 “apply to the installation, operation, monitoring, control, and maintenance of the portions of the premises wiring system intended to supply, distribute, and control electricity to designated critical operations areas (DCOA) in the event of disruption to elements of the normal system.
“Critical operations power systems are those systems so classed by municipal, state, federal, or other codes by any governmental agency having jurisdiction or by facility engineering documentation establishing the necessity for such a system. These systems include but are not limited to power systems, HVAC, fire alarm, security, communications, and signaling for designated critical operations areas,” the NEC states.
Paragraphs 5.6.1 and 5.6.3 of NFPA 1600 requires the establishment of resource management objectives. According to NFPA 1600, resource management is “a system for identifying available resources to enable timely and unimpeded access to resources needed to prevent, mitigate, prepare for, respond to, or recovering from an incident.”
Resource management includes systems and equipment, particularly those systems and equipment that are covered in Article 708 or are considered “Critical Operating Systems.” Among those systems and equipment are fire detection equipment, smoke control and ventilation systems, communications systems, emergency lighting systems, and emergency power systems that include generators, automatic transfer switches, uninterruptible power supplies, and backup systems.
Understanding the resource objectives is just part of the process. It must be refined and made usable. For instance the new NFPA handbook, Implementing NFPA 1600, the National Preparedness Standard, (see “In A Flash”) recommends that a list of available facilities be developed. That list should include: the electrical substation that provides power, the uninterruptible power supply, the generator, and the extent of the system.
It is noted in the handbook that “There have been instances where the electric pump that transfers diesel fuel from the main storage tank to the generator’s day tank was not powered by the UPS/generator.”
Also included in the facilities’ list is the telecommunications central office and what is the facility’s overall “susceptibility to hazards (e.g., located in flood zone, adjacent to freight railway, proximity to interstate highway, etc.”
However, while NFPA 1600 stresses the importance of business continuity, Article 708 is for those facilities that have to stay operational during any sort of disaster, not just after a disaster. To give Article 708 an authoritative stance, the Code-Making Panel worked with individuals and organizations that have first-hand experience with disaster. Those included officials from Florida with experience in hurricane preparedness training and officials from California with experience in earthquake preparedness.