Topic: Code Enforcement

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Two Major Home Fire Sprinkler Advances in Colorado

I’d like to send a loud shout-out to the town leaders of Avon and Erie, Colorado, for scoring huge wins by voting to include home fire sprinklers in their building codes. On December 13, both the Avon Town Council and the Erie Board of Trustees adopted building codes that require all new one- and two-family homes to be protected with installed home fire sprinklers. During the code process in both towns, there was a discussion about passing the code without the fire sprinkler requirement. In response, Erie’s Mayor Pro Tem Sarah Loflin pointed out that sprinkler systems might save multiple homes in an area that’s densely populated. Mayor Justin Brooks added that not having sprinklers would potentially have catastrophic consequences. They and others who spoke in favor prevailed and Erie’s requirement goes into effect beginning April 1, 2023. During a public hearing in Avon, Mick Woodworth, fire marshal from the Eagle River Fire Protection District, which serves the Town of Avon, was also an outspoken advocate. According to Vail Daily News, he said, “We’re community risk management, and if we want to manage the risk in our community, the No. 1 thing is fires — the way we manage that in a home is fire sprinklers.” Avon’s new code will be effective 30 days after approval. We all can learn from the victories in Avon and Erie. They were hard won because of the strong preparation and presentations by their local fire service representatives. Cost inevitably comes up in every hearing. A concern about fire sprinklers affecting affordable housing was raised in Erie. Jeff Webb, fire marshal for Mountain View Fire Rescue, which serves the town of Erie, said that when discussion centered on limiting the requirement to larger homes as a remedy, one trustee provided a very effective counterargument. It would be inequitable to provide safety measures to only those that could afford it. The town should act to make sure all residents purchasing new homes had the same safety features. Just because they were packed tighter to make them more affordable didn’t mean they had to give up safety, when in fact they were at higher risk because they were packed so tightly together. Another excellent strategy in Avon was addressing the role of sprinklers and firefighter health. This is an important point for any sprinkler code hearing and it is essential to have the fire service point of view represented. Besides occupant injury prevention, sprinklered homes protect responding firefighters by controlling fires automatically and keeping them small. These fires are not only less hazardous to fight structurally, but they also produce less toxic smoke. That directly mitigates the problem of responder exposure-caused cancer and other diseases. For more on this, read the FM Global report, which documented that fires in sprinklered homes produce 90 percent fewer carcinogens than in non-sprinkled homes. Discussions in both towns’ hearings drove home the need for better education of all decision makers. If your community does not yet have a building code requiring sprinklers in new homes, strengthen and widen your fire sprinkler outreach now, before future hearings. Reaching your local officials, planners, developers and builders in your community is essential. Above all, they need to know these facts: Today’s unprotected home fires can become deadly in as little as 2 minutes. Homes are where most fire deaths occur. Installed home fire sprinklers prevent injuries, save lives, protect the health and safety of responding firefighters and preserve property. And, most importantly, any home built to today’s codes that lacks installed fire sprinklers is substandard. You’ll be better armed if decision makers have these facts when they are making code decisions. You’ll have less opposition, and they can show their concern for their communities by keeping—or amending in—a new-construction sprinkler requirement. Be aware of your own power. In jurisdictions where home fire sprinklers aren’t in the current code and no update is forthcoming, the authority having jurisdiction (AHJ) and fire marshal should make themselves a regular and vocal presence in the new development pre-planning process to ensure home fire sprinklers are on the table and to include current data and educational content in planning discussions. Tap into our free resources. For helpful safety tip sheets, visit our tip sheet webpage. And for home fire sprinkler content, use HFSC’s free turnkey tools that make it easy for you to educate your target audiences. You can create a space on your website about the value of building new homes with fire sprinklers. Upload videos and other content. Post cards to your social media accounts. Or simply link to – HFSC’s website is free of advertising and all content is free to you.  Bottom line? Home fire sprinklers won’t sell themselves. A vocal, persuasive, tireless leader and activist like you, who exercises your power to influence community decision makers to do the right thing, will protect your jurisdiction for generations to come.

How To Maintain Building and Equipment Access for the Responding Fire Department

When facility managers and building owners think of fire department access, they typically think about keeping a fire lane clear, so the responding fire department has a place to set up their equipment in case of an emergency. While this is critical to an effective response, there are many other aspects of a building that need to be properly maintained to provide appropriate fire department access to the building, as well as crucial fire and life safety equipment.  Building Identification To assist emergency responders in locating properties, building address numbers must be visible from the street. Premises or building identification is covered in Section 10.11 of NFPA 1, Fire Code. Address numbers can be mounted either on the building itself or, if the building is not visible from the street, on a post located on the street. The numbers should be designed to contrast the background of the building or post and be large enough to be easily seen from the street. Fire Apparatus Access Road To provide effective manual fire suppression operations, the fire department must be able to gain reasonable access to a building. Chapter 18 of NFPA 1 provides requirements for fire apparatus access. According to the Fire Code, access roads must be provided and maintained to allow the fire apparatus to be able to get within 50 ft (15 m) of at least one exterior door and to be within at least 150 ft (46m) of all exterior portions of the first story—this is increased to 450 ft (137 m) if the building is sprinklered. These access roads should be kept unobstructed to a width of not less than 20 ft (6.1 m) and a height of not less than 13 ft 6 in. (4.1 m). Keep in mind that these widths and heights may be altered by the local authority having jurisdiction (AHJ) to accommodate responding apparatus. It is also important to maintain the proper turning radius needed for the responding apparatus and ensure that any required turnaround space is also kept clear. If the access road has a dead end that is greater than 150 ft (46m), a turnaround space is required. To ensure that your fire apparatus access roads are unobstructed from any parked vehicles or other obstructions, it may be a good idea to provide signs or roadway markings. This is something that may also be required by the AHJ. Access Boxes The fire department must be able to open any doors leading into the building that may be locked. This means an access box may be required by the AHJ to give the fire department the ability to obtain keys to unlock the building during an emergency. Typically, these access boxes are located near the front entrance of the building. If these access boxes are not provided, it is likely that the first responders may need to perform some forcible entry to gain access to the building, which means doors may be damaged or destroyed. If access to the premises is secured by a locked gate, then the fire department must be provided with an approved device or system to unlock the gate. This could be done with the installation of an access box on or near the gate that contains keys to the gate, or the responding fire department can be provided with an access card or other security device. Fire Hydrants The fire department also needs access to water. This is typically done by connecting to fire hydrants located on or near the property. All fire hydrants should be maintained so that a clear space of not less than 36 in. (914 mm) is provided all the way around the hydrant. Additionally, a clear space of 60 in. (1524 mm) needs to be provided in the front of a hydrant if it has a connection that is greater than 2 1⁄2 in. (64 mm). This clear space is provided to allow the connection and routing of hose lines. If you live in a cold climate, this means that all snow must be removed from around the hydrant after each storm. Fire Department Connection Your building may also have a fire department connection. This is a hose connection or series of hose connections located on the exterior of the building that connect either to a standpipe system or to the sprinkler system. Connections to standpipe systems allow the fire department to pressurize the standpipe system in the building so they can connect their hose lines to pre-installed hose connections within the building to fight the fire. Connections to the sprinkler system allow the fire department to pump additional water into the sprinkler system increasing the amount of available water and pressure within the system to control the fire. If your building has a fire department connection it is important to maintain proper access, which is outlined in Chapter 13 of NFPA 1. Most importantly, the code requires that a minimum of 36 in. (915 mm) of clear space be maintained to ensure the fire department can not only see the fire department connections but can also make use of them. This includes making sure any tree branches or vegetation are cut back and no other obstructions, such as trash cans, are present. Fire Alarm Control Unit If your building has a fire alarm and signaling system, it is important that the fire alarm control unit (FACU)—also known as the fire alarm panel—is accessible. The FACU allows the fire department to identify which initiating devices are in alarm to help them better locate the fire. If the fire alarm system also contains an emergency voice communication system, then the fire department can also use the system to communicate with occupants in the building to give them direction. Typically, the fire alarm control unit is going to be located near a main entrance in an area such as the lobby. It is also possible that the fire alarm control unit is in a different place and a fire alarm annunciator is placed near the main entrance. This fire alarm annunciator is connected to the fire alarm control unit and allows the first responders to see all of the displays on the fire alarm control unit from a remote location. Both the fire alarm control unit and any fire alarm annunciators must be free of any obstructions and must be visible at all times. If either the fire alarm control unit or the annunciator is locked, it is important to provide the fire department with keys so they can operate the system. Emergency Command Center If your building is a high-rise, meaning that it’s a building where the floor of an occupiable story is greater than 75 ft (23 m) above the lowest level of fire department vehicle access, then it is likely that your building has an emergency command center or a fire command center. This is a space that is separated from the remainder of the building with fire resistance–rated construction and provides a space for the fire department to set up their command if there is an emergency or fire in the building. The emergency command center may contain the following: ·      The fire department communication unit ·      A telephone for fire department use ·      Schematic building plans detailing the floor plan, means of egress, fire protection systems, firefighting equipment, and fire department access ·      A work table ·      The fire alarm control unit (fire alarm panel) or annunciator ·      Elevator location indicators ·      Emergency and standby power indicators ·      Fire pump status indicators ·      Smoke control system controls Typically, these rooms are located near the main entrance of the building or off the main lobby. It is crucial that these spaces remain accessible and are free from all storage or obstructions.  Fire Pump Room A fire pump may be required in your building to provide the required water pressure for a standpipe system or an automatic sprinkler system. Fire pumps are required to be in a room that is separated from the remainder of the building with fire resistance­–rated construction. If your building has a fire pump room, it is important that this room be properly identified and free of all storage and equipment that is not essential to the operation of the fire pump. Fire pump rooms are required to be accessed from a protected interior pathway or from an exterior door, so it is also important to ensure that the protected interior pathway or the path to the exterior door of the pump room is also free and clear of obstructions. Summary As you can see, there are many more aspects to fire department access than just keeping a fire lane clear. We want to make sure that the fire department and first responders can properly identify the building as well as access all of the building equipment that they may need during their response. It is important to get into a habit of regularly checking these items as you never know when you might need the fire department or first responders at your building, and in the case of an emergency, every second counts. Interested in learning more? Take a look at this video excerpt (below) from our Fire and Life Safety Operator Online Training, which goes over items that need to be maintained to assist the fire department.

Growth in Codes and Standards is Essential to Safety within Cannabis Oil Extraction Facilities

Both the cannabis plant and the industry itself have been growing quite a bit over the past decade. In 2012, Colorado and Washington became the first two states to legalize recreational use of cannabis. Many other states followed suit. As of November 2022, a total of 21 states, and the District of Columbia, had approved the use of cannabis for recreational purposes. Legalization provided many people with an opportunity to use cannabis to treat conditions such as pain, migraines, depression, and anxiety, among other things, while remaining law-abiding citizens. With the increase in demand came a need for an increase in supply. Facilities of all shapes and sizes began popping up in states where cannabis was legalized to be manufactured. While cannabis is commonly smoked by many users, other forms of cannabis products include gummies, oils, supplements, and extracts. These products are manufactured by extracting cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) from the plant itself. What are the safety concerns? The extraction of cannabis oil can pose many safety issues, including the risk of fire and explosion. In many cases, the extraction process itself creates a hazardous location due to the use of flammable solvents such as butane, pentane, hexane, propane, and ethanol, which can all be released during the processing and extraction of plant oils. Proper installation, maintenance, and use of the extraction equipment employed as part of the processing of oils from cannabis will go a long way in achieving overall safety within these types of facilities.   RELATED  • Listen to an NFPA podcast about regulating the cannabis industry • Read, “The New Face of Pot,” published in the July/August 2018 NFPA Journal     What does the NEC say?   The 2023 edition of NFPA 70®, National Electrical Code® (NEC®), made significant strides toward helping achieve electrical safety in facilities that perform cannabis oil extraction by adding Article 512, Cannabis Oil Equipment and Cannabis Oil Systems Using Flammable Materials.   This new article provides electrical requirements for cannabis oil preparatory equipment, extraction equipment, booths, post-processing equipment, and systems using flammable materials (flammable gas, flammable liquid–produced vapor, combustible liquid–produced vapor) in commercial and industrial facilities. A public input that was submitted for the 2023 NEC as part of the NFPA standards development process, PI-2285, supported creating a new article that would “elevate the level of safety” within the cannabis industry. The substantiation of PI-2285 provided examples of real-life explosion incidents within cannabis facilities, some of which required more than 200 firefighters to battle the blaze and left large numbers of firefighters injured. In an industry that has processes and procedures unfamiliar to many authorities having jurisdiction (AHJs) and that continues to see tremendous growth, it is crucial to provide safety requirements around installations that can be verified at the time of inspection.   While it is likely that we will see new Article 512 expand within future NEC cycles to provide more guidance, the initial content contained within the 2023 NEC begins to provide some of the necessary requirements for designers, installers, and AHJs to achieve electrical safety around cannabis equipment and systems.   Article 512 is broken down into three parts: Part I: General; Part II: Wiring; and Part III: Equipment. Section 512.3 is a key component for installations as it provides the requirements for how cannabis oil equipment and systems that can release flammable materials during operation must be classified. The section is broken down into Part A, which covers installations outside of booths, and Part B, which covers installations within booths. Each of these areas are then further broken down into installations where flammable gases and vapors are released and installations where flammable gases and vapors are not released.   Having the area classified properly is an important initial step as we move into Parts II and III of Article 512 to determine how wiring and equipment installations must be performed in and around the hazardous locations. Part III, in particular, includes requirements for the equipment and systems to be listed and marked. It also provides guidance on when gas detection is required. While the new Article 512 within the 2023 NEC is a great starting point for beginning to provide electrical safety requirements within cannabis facilities, as can be expected, safety needs don’t stop there. A new, dedicated cannabis standard Currently, NFPA is in the development stages of NFPA 420, Standard on Fire Protection of Cannabis Growing and Processing Facilities. The overall goal of NFPA 420 is to address the protection of facilities where cannabis is being grown or processed from fire and related hazards. Initial meeting minutes found at the NFPA 420 document information page reflect committee task groups working to develop preliminary chapters that provide information pertaining to fundamentals, indoor growing, drying/processing, and extraction. Provided that the draft development progresses at the technical committee level, and approval to do so is provided by the NFPA Standards Council, the goal is to have an initial NFPA 420 document available for public input sometime in 2024. The growth of the cannabis industry does not show any signs of slowing down. A recent article in Forbes stated that market research firm BDSA is forecasting cannabis sales in the United States to grow from $25 billion in 2021 to $40 billion in 2026. More facilities, more processing, and more workers lead to an increased need for safety within the cannabis industry. Continued development of codes and standards that provide knowledge for those designing, performing, and inspecting these installations is paramount to achieving a high level of safety within cannabis growing and processing facilities.

The Vital Role of Fire Inspectors and Fire Inspector Certification

According to the latest “Fire Loss in the United States” report, published by NFPA in September 2022, there were roughly 1.35 million fires in the United States in 2021, causing a reported 3,800 civilian fire deaths and 14,700 civilian injuries. The property damage caused by these fires was nearly $15.9 billion. Although the number of fires has decreased over the last few years, it is still way too high, and we are seeing too high a cost in human lives lost and property damage. Clearly, this is a problem that needs to be addressed. So how do we fix it? Looking at this problem through the lens of the NFPA Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem™, it will take all of us working together to create positive change to improve those numbers. The Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem is defined as “a framework that identifies the components that must work together to minimize risk and help prevent loss, injuries, and death from fire, electrical, and other hazards.” A critical part of reducing the loss of life, injuries, and property damage from these hazards is fire prevention. Having been in the fire service for many years, I can tell you that part of our basic priorities was always what we called LIP—life safety, incident stabilization, and property conservation. And what is one of the best ways to help accomplish these priorities? Through dedicated prevention programs. An important cog in the Ecosystem and one that can too often be overlooked and under-resourced is code compliance. In other words, getting out into your jurisdictions on inspection details to assist the community in complying with their safety codes and standards. Typically, across the US, the lion’s share of the fire protection budgets of our communities is focused on fire suppression and other response assets and, in some cases, justifiably so. It’s worth noting that I absolutely believe we will always require brave women and men to staff department apparatus and respond to emergencies 365/24/7. But if we focused just a bit more on the front end—preventing those emergencies—it will be more cost (lives and property) effective at the end of the day. The good news is that according to the Fifth Needs Assessment of the US Fire Service, published by NFPA in December 2021, approximately 77 percent of departments surveyed perform some form of fire prevention. Yet of those same departments, only 37 percent engage in code enforcement. Now that’s not to say it isn’t being done. Many smaller communities, mainly the ones serving a population of 10,000 or less, rely on building or other officials to take on the code enforcement duties. But even in the larger jurisdictions, there just is not the budget available to conduct fire and life safety inspections in all of the buildings that require them. Investing in certified fire inspectors is one of the best ways communities can help close this gap. What is a fire inspector? Unlike health inspectors or even code inspectors, a lot of people likely haven’t heard the term fire inspector before. So what do fire inspectors do? In some circles, the term fire inspector is one title for a specific type of code official. A code official is a qualified person who enforces a particular code or codes under the authority of a jurisdiction that uses those codes. The code or law might vary depending on the jurisdiction. A fire inspector is often a qualified person working under a fire marshal authorized by law to enforce a specific code, such as NFPA 1, Fire Code, or NFPA 101®, Life Safety Code®. Some jurisdictions will use these codes but create specific amendments to suit the specific needs of that community. Fire inspectors not only conduct inspections, but they can also review and approve aspects of construction plans and issue permits; however, this also varies by jurisdiction. In some smaller communities, the building official is also the fire marshal. So it really varies from community to community. Do fire inspectors need to be certified? It depends again on the jurisdiction, but in most cases where they are enforcing an applicable code or codes, they would need to have not only jurisdictional authority but also special training that leads to proven competency, such as a certification that requires upkeep or continual training. Fire inspectors require training on the code or codes that they will be enforcing and how to conduct an inspection. They need to understand building construction, fire protection systems, fire dynamics, and human behavior, to mention a few subjects. They need to understand certain case law that guides how they operate and how to review and interpret construction plans. How do they get certified? There are a number of options for fire inspector certification. Certification involves a multi-step process of education built around fire dynamics, fire protection systems, specific occupancies, accredited standards, a certification exam, and practicum. NFPA offers a comprehensive learning path to help candidates prepare to become certified fire inspectors. Simply taking a class isn’t enough. Ultimately, a good training class is only part of a pathway to certification. Though having some background in fire protection is helpful when becoming a certified fire inspector, it’s not entirely required. A good fire inspection certification program will provide a basic knowledge of fire dynamics as well as fire protection. Another important piece is ensuring that the program is written to proven consensus-based and accredited standards. NFPA 1031, Standard for Professional Qualifications for Fire Inspector and Plan Examiner, is one such standard that is accredited as a standard by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and Pro Board. The standard provides job performance requirements (JPRs) for fire inspectors and plan examiners. Most good certification programs will build their curriculum to meet these JPRs. Once a candidate successfully passes the certification exam, they will also need to successfully complete a practicum that includes showing competence by conducting, under supervision, a number of inspections. And when that has been completed successfully, the candidate becomes certified. NFPA has just the program to take you through that certification pathway and provide you with the knowledge and practical skills necessary to successfully attain Certified Inspector 1 status. The Certified Fire Inspector 1 program includes 10 self-paced, online modules that can be taken as a bundle or individually. This program, which has been recently updated to cover the most up-to-date codes and standards, received a gold medal in the Brandon Hall Excellence in Learning Awards in 2021. Fire inspectors play a vital role in our drive to make our homes, businesses, and our communities safer from fire, electrical, and other hazards. One of the many ways that we can strive to reduce the loss of life, injuries, and damage to property is to invest in a strong fire prevention plan that includes code enforcement. The inspectors who perform these duties need to be trained and certified, and they can accomplish that with the NFPA Certified Fire Inspector 1 Learning Pathway.  

Twitter HQ Investigation Highlights Importance of Catching Changes of Occupancy

Elon Musk has found himself in hot water with the city of San Francisco after reports surfaced that the newly minted Twitter owner had arranged for sleeping quarters to be added to the social media company’s San Francisco headquarters.   The San Francisco Department of Buildings Inspection said on December 7 that it would launch an investigation into the reported renovations. In a tweet, Musk called the investigation an “attack” and questioned the city’s priorities. Coming to his aid, some Twitter users then urged the billionaire entrepreneur, who also owns Tesla and SpaceX, to move Twitter’s main offices out of California.   So city of SF attacks companies providing beds for tired employees instead of making sure kids are safe from fentanyl. Where are your priorities @LondonBreed!? — Elon Musk (@elonmusk) December 6, 2022 But experts say the reality is that, in essentially any jurisdiction, if a change of occupancy occurs, codes and standards are in place to ensure that the fire and life safety features of a building also change to appropriately protect the new occupancy. And for good reason—deviating from a building’s intended occupancy classification has resulted in deadly consequences in past instances.   What is ‘change of occupancy’?   A change of occupancy is defined by NFPA 101®, Life Safety Code®, as a “change in the occupancy classification of a structure or portion of a structure.” It’s important to note that change of occupancy differs from change of use.  “ The reality is if a change of occupancy occurs, codes and standards are in place to ensure that the fire and life safety features of a building also change to appropriately protect the new occupancy   In a blog published in September, Robin Zevotek, a principal fire protection engineer at NFPA, explained it by saying, “If the work being done creates a change to the occupancy classification it is a change of occupancy, if not, it is a change of use.” In other words, adding flammable liquids to an area of a storage warehouse not intended to store flammable liquids would be change of use; turning that warehouse into an Airbnb would be change of occupancy. RELATED  Read more about occupancy classifications in codes   When either a change of occupancy or a change of use occurs, a review must take place to determine the fire protection systems or other life safety features that might now be required. An assembly occupancy like a nightclub, for instance, will have different code requirements than a hotel.   In the case of Twitter’s offices, a change from an office building to something more akin to a lodging or rooming house occupancy classification could require additional smoke and carbon monoxide alarms that an office space might not. “When the building, fire, and life safety systems were designed and installed, it was under the assumption that people would use this building as a normal office building and that people wouldn’t sleep there,” said Brian O’Connor, a fire protection engineer at NFPA.   Codes and standards even account for the way people behave in different occupancy types. “In a business occupancy, for instance, we expect a certain level of awareness and responsiveness from occupants since they are alert and awake,” said Valeria Ziavras, a fire protection engineer at NFPA. “Additionally, we would expect them to have some familiarity with the building and how to get out in the event of an emergency. Compare that to an occupancy like a lodging and rooming house, where we expect occupants to be sleeping, at least part of the time, which drastically affects the level of awareness and how quickly they can respond to an emergency situation. They may or may not be familiar with the building and how to get out.”   A spokesman for the San Francisco Department of Buildings Inspection echoed these points in a statement sent to CBS News. “We need to make sure the building is being used as intended,” said Patrick Hannan, the department’s communications director. “There are different building code requirements for residential buildings, including those being used for short-term stays. These codes make sure people are using spaces safely.”   Unregulated changes of occupancy can have potentially devastating consequences. Perhaps no example illustrates this better than the Ghost Ship warehouse fire that killed 36 people in Oakland in December 2016. Dozens of people had been illegally living and working in the abandoned warehouse prior to the fire. At the time, the warehouse hadn’t been inspected in three decades, city records showed, and few seemed to know what was actually going on inside.     “If changes in occupancy or use occur with disregard to the code implications, this could put people’s lives at risk, result in the loss of the property, and have a negative impact on either the local or global economy,” said O’Connor. “Sometimes, we take it for granted when we assume that the lives of the occupants were taken into consideration when changes to the building are made. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case, so if you see a change in occupancy or a major change in use occur, be sure to notify your local fire department.” Top photograph: MatthewKeys via Wikipedia
Temporary/holiday lighting

Holiday lighting: To inspect or not to inspect, that is the question

As the holidays approach us some may wonder, do I need an electrical inspection to hang my holiday decorative lighting? The answer is maybe. I know, probably not the answer you were thinking. The decision to require an inspection often lies with the authority having jurisdiction (AHJ) along with any applicable laws. The AHJ will likely consider the type of lighting or wiring that is being installed when making the decision. If you are just hanging a few twinkling decorative lights around the house and on trees an inspection might not be needed, but if you are putting on a holiday lighting extravaganza like Clark Griswold in Christmas Vacation, an inspection might be necessary, or probably should be. The 2023 National Electrical Code®, (NEC®), section 590.3(B) permits the installation of temporary holiday decorative lighting and associated wiring, as long as it is not up more than 90-days. This permission has nothing to do with the requirement or wavier of an electrical inspection but does provide the inspector with valuable information. Another question that comes to mind surrounding string lights, the ones that are hung around a patio or along a fence for ambiance, would that require an inspection? Possibly, since the string lights may be considered lampholders by the AHJ and are often left up for longer periods. NEC Article 410, Part VIII, and section 225.24 cover lampholders and their wiring. Because string lights are installed in a more permanent manner, frequently, a fixed and not temporary wiring method is used to supply the power. Section 590.2(B) indicates temporary wiring methods, including lighting, are acceptable only if approved based on conditions of use and any special requirements of the temporary installation. So how is it approved if it is not inspected by a qualified electrical inspector? Simple, it is not approved. So what is the AHJ looking for with temporary wiring or holiday decorative lighting installations? Typically, they are looking for: listing and labeling, sections 590.5, 410.6 wet locations for lampholders, 410.96 Location of outdoor lamps, section 225.25 installation methods, section 225.24, 590.2 So, as the holidays near and we start digging into the boxes in our basements and attics for holiday decor, now is the time to consider your approach to safety. Ensure your holiday decorative lights, string lights, and associated wiring are hung in a safe and code compliant manner and request an inspection where available. By reducing electrical hazards in your home, you can help assure you and your family will enjoy a fun, festive, and safe holiday season. NFPA has free resources to download and share, including a safety tip sheet on outdoor electrical safety, and a safety checklist. For more information, visit
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