NFPA Today

Electrical Room Basics, Part 1

This is the first in a series of blogs on electrical rooms Frequently, people associate an electrical room with Article 110 of the National Electrical Code® (NEC®).  More specifically, they associate it with section 110.26. But is that accurate? The answer would be kind of. Section 110.26 deals with what it calls working space about electrical equipment, not electrical rooms. After all, these rooms are sometimes used for other mechanical equipment like furnaces or water heaters, which is why they are sometimes referred to as mechanical rooms. The one thing they are not is storage rooms. The sections within 110.26 are specific to working spaces about electrical equipment that may or may not be within a room. Working space may be in a corridor, basement, exterior, or even a garage. However, the section that could be interpreted to require an electrical room is 110.27, which requires live parts be guarded against accidental contact. One of several methods to accomplish this is by placing electrical equipment in an electrical room or vault. Therefore, most architects design a separate electrical room, or mechanical room, for the main service equipment and mechanical equipment for the building, which is usually less expensive than an electrical vault. In most cases, the room is locked, which helps create a method of control to ensure only qualified persons have access to energized electrical equipment as outlined in 110.26(F). Contained within the electrical room is the working space about the electrical equipment as described in the 2023 NEC, section 110.26(A). This space consists of several parameters, some of which are outlined below. ·       Depth of Working Space is a measurement that considers nominal voltage to ground and if there are grounded parts or exposed live parts across from the equipment. This information lines up with the conditions outlined in Table 110.26(A)(1). To determine this measurement, one must select the condition that applies to the installation. Then measure from exposed parts (soon to be live) or from the face of the enclosure, if live parts are enclosed, extending out the front until the minimum distance within the table is achieved. ·       Width of Working Space is a dimension derived from measuring the width across the front of the electrical equipment. This can be taken from center (15 inches in middle of equipment), from left side of equipment or from right side. No matter the amperage the maximum width will be equal to the width of the equipment but will not be less than 30 inches. ·       Height of Working Space is measured from grade, floor, or platform to a height of 6.5 feet and is the width of the equipment or at least 30 inches and extends out to the depth of the working space. Other items such as luminaries or sprinkler pipes may be above this space, but not within it. ·       Grade, Floor, or Working Platform requires the grade, floor or working platform to be kept clear and that the floor, grade, or working platform be as level and flat as practical for the entire depth and width of the working space for the applicable working space. This is largely because electrical equipment that requires servicing may be in different environments. ·       Entrance to and Egress from Working Space requires at least one entrance of sufficient area to give access to and egress from the working space. Depending on the size of the equipment (see 110.26(C)(2)), the entrance and egress to/from the working space could be 24 inches wide by 6.5 feet high. Open equipment doors must not impede access to and egress from the required working space. If one or more equipment doors are open and access to and egress from the working space is reduced to less than 24 inches wide and 6.5 feet high, the access is considered impeded. Most of us have seen electrical equipment located outside of the electrical room. Sometimes a panel is in a corridor of a school or back hall of a store or even outside. Panels located outside of a building may require other means to guard the live parts from accidental contact and to create a compliant working space. No matter where the electrical equipment that may require servicing is located, all of section 110.26 applies. So, working space and section 110.26 must be accounted for by architects and design professionals in the overall layout and installation of electrical equipment to allow for safe access, operation, and maintenance of that equipment. Stay tuned to NFPA Today for part two in this blog series titled Electrical Rooms, where we will explore the working space requirements for equipment over 1,000 volts, nominal.

Don’t Miss Out. Register by December 24 to Become an NFPA Member and Vote at the 2023 Technical Meeting.

The deadline for becoming an NFPA® member and have voting privileges during the 2023 NFPA Technical Meeting (a.k.a. Tech Session) is Saturday, December 24. While all NFPA stakeholders are encouraged to share their voices during the public comment/input/debate phases of the standards development process, voting privileges are exclusively reserved for those who have become NFPA members at least 180 days prior to the annual Technical Meeting (and have also registered for the Technical Meeting). The 2023 Technical Meeting will begin on June 22 (and continue on June 23, if necessary) in Las Vegas, which accounts for the December 24 NFPA membership deadline. There are currently more than 30 documents that are up for consideration at the 2023 NFPA Technical Meeting, including NFPA 101®, Life Safety Code®; NFPA 99, Health Care Facilities Code; and NFPA 70E®, Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace®. The final list of documents to be debated or voted on in June will not be fully known until the Motions Committee certifies motions in May. (Any and all updates will be posted at nfpa.org/2023techsession.) In addition to being able to vote at the Technical Meeting, NFPA members enjoy other professional benefits including, but not limited to, the following: One-on-one help with technical standards questions from NFPA fire, building, electrical, and life safety specialists Access to NFPA Xchange™, an online community where like-minded professionals can go for solutions and connect with peers worldwide. The NFPA Technical Knowledge Base can also be searched in NFPA Xchange™. A 10% discount on most NFPA products and services* To become an NFPA member and vote during the 2023 Technical Meeting, or to see the full list of NFPA benefits, visit the NFPA membership page today. *Cannot be combined with other offers or used for certification programs.

Fire Break

Using Codes and Standards to Protect Homes and Businesses from Wildfire

Solving the problem of wildfire disasters—events where whole communities are impacted and thousands of buildings are destroyed—isn’t simple. Using codes and standards to address wildfire risks to the built environment is a critically important activity, but it is also quite intricate. To make the job of elected officials and AHJs easier, NFPA recently consolidated its wildfire-related documents into one convenient package, NFPA 1140, Standard for Wildland Fire Protection. A two-page, downloadable explainer, “Using Codes and Standards to Reduce Risk in Wildfire-Prone Areas,” has also been created to help local officials, AHJs, and policymakers navigate the complexity of this process. The asset draws connections between sections of NFPA 1140 and the relevant needs of community wildfire protection, from fire protection infrastructure to building materials to defensible space. Part of the Outthink approach Launched last year, NFPA’s Outthink Wildfire™ initiative promotes five key tenets based on decades of experience and research that we believe can make a significant difference in saving property and lives. Two of those five key tenets focus on using codes and standards to help make new construction safer and to address the hazards and exposures that existing homes and businesses face. NFPA 1140—which combines the previous standards NFPA 1051, NFPA 1141, 1143, and NFPA 1144—represents the consensus of wildfire experts on the most effective and efficient means for reducing risk to people and property. As communities consider how to mitigate wildfire dangers to existing and future development, as well as allocate resources for safe and effective emergency response, these standards should serve as the basis for their actions. The two-page explainer on using codes and standards to address wildfire risks notes when and where standards for wildfire mitigation should apply. It points out the relevant chapters of NFPA 1140 and other standards that can be used to protect existing structures. It addresses the need for water supplies and other firefighting infrastructure, including multiple access and egress routes enabling first responders to quickly enter threatened communities and allowing safe evacuation for residents. Finally, it suggests the roles and responsibilities for community officials who may be charged with enforcing elements of the standards. Wildfires are part of our natural environments, and they are inevitable; wildfire disasters are not. Learn more about the value and effectiveness of using codes and standards to bend down the wildfire risk curve for your jurisdiction by downloading our brief explainer here.

Lessons learned on wildfire communication and community initiatives

Isabeau Ottolini is a PhD candidate from the Open University of Catalonia (Spain) and the European project, PyroLife. She is researching Community-based Wildfire Communication, and has recently done her research stay at NFPA’s Wildfire Division. In this blogpost, she takes us along her visit across the USA, and shares lessons learnt on communicating about wildfires. Recently NFPA hosted me for a research stay to allow me to learn first-hand about community initiatives on wildfires, and specifically NFPA’s communication activities in the USA. I started my journey in California, with Bethany Hannah - founder of The Smokey Generation and the American Wildfire Experience. Together, we visited recent wildfire sites such as the 2021 Caldor Fire and the KNP Complex Fire; met the Division Chief of Prescribed Fire and Fuels at Yosemite National Park to learn how prescribed wildfire is used in one of USA’s most emblematic national parks; and observed the impact of the recent wildfires in the Sequoia National Park. At the IAWF Fire & Climate Conference in Pasadena, Bethany and I also presented together on Fire Stories: a case for Community-based Communication. Creating viewscapes across Yosemite with the help of prescribed burns. Photo: Isabeau Ottolini   In Colorado, Megan Fitzgerald-McGowan and Aron Anderson from NFPA’s Wildfire Division took me on field visits to Boulder and Colorado Springs. We visited the Sites of Excellence site, Red Rock Ranch, as well as diverse other Firewise and Wildfire Partners communities, to learn which wildfire prevention and mitigation activities are happening at the community level. We also visited diverse areas affected by wildfires in the past 30 years (from the Berry Fire in 1989, the Waldo Canyon Fire in 2012, to the most recent Marshall Fire), to learn how ecosystems and communities are impacted and recovering after wildfire disaster. Lastly, I had the great opportunity to present her research at the NFPA C&E in Boston. Here I shared Lessons from the US and Europe on Wildfire Communication with Communities at Risk. During my last days in the US, I partook in the day-to-day of the NFPA office, and together with Michele Steinberg visited a recent wildfire-affected area in the Blue Hills as well as the Six Ponds Firewise community in Plymouth. Lessons learned On my visit, I crossed the USA from west to east, observing very different fire landscapes and being inspired by many great community-based wildfire initiatives – including Firewise, the Sites of Excellence, Fire Adapted Communities, and Wildfire Partners – that make wildfire mitigation and prevention possible on the community level. Here are four lessons on how to communicate about wildfires and support community-based wildfire initiatives. There are no silver bullets nor quick fixes to prevent and mitigate wildfires. Wildfire communication needs to be adapted to local contexts, and this requires actively engaging with communities, listening to them, and reading the room. For instance, if a community has just lost homes to a wildfire, it is likely not the best time to talk about good fire. As wildfire communicators, we need to meet people where they are at. Take the time to first learn about their needs, knowledge, and interests, and then jointly develop wildfire actions that are most feasible, relevant and rewarding for each community. Sharing responsibility: the wildfire issue is too big to be addressed only by certain groups, like the fire service or public administrations. Experience shows that community-led initiatives can achieve so much in mitigating and preventing wildfire disasters, so it is crucial to involve and empower them to take action. In addition, recognizing and celebrating community achievements helps maintain motivation, such as by making visible their efforts (e.g. by putting up Firewise signs, sharing success stories in the media, etc.) as well as providing support (e.g. how to get grants for fuel reduction efforts). Lastly, it is essential to build trust and mutually beneficial relationships between communities, fire departments, public administrations, etc. Especially in informal settings, people can genuinely listen to each other, understand each other's challenges, find ways to help one other, and build great collaborations. Because at the end of the day it is all about building this human connection and working together on creating a more hopeful wildfire future.

Safety Source

Christmas tree decorating

Christmas Trees Present Potential Fire Hazards—Enjoy Them with Care and Caution

For all the joy and beauty Christmas trees bring, it’s important to remember that they are large combustible items that present potential fire hazards in the home. Fire departments responded to an annual average of 160 home structure fires caused by Christmas trees between 2016 and 2020, resulting in two civilian deaths, 11 civilian injuries, and $12 million in direct property damage. Statistically, Christmas tree fires don’t happen often, but when they do, they’re much more likely to be serious. The deadly fire that occurred at a row house in Philadelphia this past January, which involved a Christmas tree and caused 12 fatalities (nine of them children), tragically underscores this point. Fires involving fresh Christmas trees tend to be more common than artificial tree fires. That’s in part because fresh Christmas trees dry out over time, making them more flammable the longer they’re in the home; a dried-out Christmas tree will burn much more quickly than a well-watered one. Our Christmas tree safety tip sheet offers tips and recommendations for safely enjoying Christmas trees this season. Following are some key reminders: For a fresh tree, cut 2 inches (5 cm) from the base of the trunk before placing it in the stand. Add water daily to keep the tree well hydrated. Trees should be placed at least 3 feet (1 m) away from any heat source, such as fireplaces, radiators, candles, heat vents, or lights. Make sure the tree is not blocking an exit, such as a door or window. Ensure that decorative lights are in good working order and used in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions. Also, the latest statistics from NFPA on Christmas tree fires in US homes include these key findings, reflecting annual averages between 2016 and 2020: Christmas tree fires are more common between 3 p.m. and midnight, accounting for one-half of associated fires. Another 26 percent of fires occurred between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. Approximately two of every five home Christmas tree fires started in the living room, family room, or den. Electrical failures or malfunctions were factors in more than one-third (34 percent) of Christmas tree fires. In one-fifth (20 percent) of Christmas tree fires, some type of heat source was placed too close to the tree. Visit our winter holidays page for additional information and resources on how to safely deck the halls this holiday season. These resources can be shared online, through social media, and/or as handouts.

With Rising Costs and Lower Temperatures, Promoting Safe Heating Practices Is of Utmost Importance

A recent press release from the National Energy Assistance Directors Association reported that US households will likely experience a 17.1 percent increase in home heating costs this coming winter. Heating is the second overall leading cause of reported home fires and home fire injuries, and the third leading cause of home fire deaths in the US*. As people balance their budgets against heating their homes, fire and life safety educators have an opportunity and critical need to reinforce safe heating practices geared to the safe use of heating equipment.  For instance, promoting the maintenance of heating equipment and chimneys by having them cleaned and inspected annually by a qualified professional is important not only for fire and carbon monoxide prevention, but also for economic and mechanical efficiency.  And as people turn to portable space heaters to save on gas and oil expenses, fire and life safety educators need to stress the safe selection and use of these devices, which are involved in 44 percent of home heating equipment fires and the vast majority of injuries and deaths from home heating equipment fires*. (*Source: NFPA Applied Research) Chapter 10 of the NFPA Educational Messages Desk Reference for fire and life safety educators focuses on safe heating, including fireplaces and wood/pellet stoves, space heaters, central heating systems, and related heating equipment.  Some key tips for safe heating this winter: Have a 3 foot (1 m) “kid-free zone” around open fires and space heaters. That goes for pets too! Keep anything that can burn 3 feet (1 m) from heating equipment, including space heaters, fireplaces, and wood stoves. Plug only one heat producing appliance (like a space heater) into a wall outlet at a time. Never use an extension cord with a space heater or other heat producing appliance. Use heating equipment that is listed by a qualified testing laboratory. Never use your oven or stove for heating. Ovens and stoves are not designed to heat your home. Make sure fuel-burning equipment is vented to the outside to avoid carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning. Install and maintain smoke and CO alarms inside your home to provide early warning of smoke and carbon monoxide. Visit the NFPA heating safety page for facts, tips, and videos and visit our tip sheets in multiple languages page to download the Heating Safety Tip Sheet, available in Spanish, French, Haitian Creole, Hmong, and Somali. Follow me on Twitter @AndreaVastis, Sparky the Fire Dog® on Twitter and Facebook and NFPA on Instagram to keep up with the latest in fire and life safety education.

Fire Sprinkler Initiative

Work from home

Fire Sprinklers: A Life-Saving Solution Remote Workers Can Feel Right at Home With

Covid changed everything. Will it leave a lasting impact on fire safety too? Before the pandemic, only about 5 percent of full-time employees with office jobs worked primarily from home. According to a recent Forbes article, that figure is likely to settle at 20 to 30 percent in our new normal, varying across occupations and industries. Many workplaces and offices are protected by fire sprinklers; NFPA included, I’m happy to say. And wise business travelers select sprinklered hotels when they’re on the road. Great. But what about all the people working at home now? The work-at-home trend has many positives for many people, but it also heralds a concern for remote workers – unsafe homes. And remote workers aren’t the only ones at risk. Home is where we want to feel safest, but that comfort is often misplaced. For example, smoke alarms were present in three-quarters of reported US home fires, but three out of five home fire deaths happened in homes without smoke alarms or with non-operational alarms (NFPA 2014-2018). And a recent NFPA survey showed that just one in three American homes had and practiced an escape plan. Making matters worse, just 7 percent of US homes have installed fire sprinklers. Today’s home fires can become deadly in less than two minutes. That’s justification for better home fire protection, especially home fire sprinklers. Having smoke alarms just isn’t enough. First, smoke alarms need to be working – all of them, all the time. Everyone in the home needs to recognize the alarm and know what to do. And everyone needs to be certain they know how and where to escape, from every room in the home. That requires a plan with an escape strategy for everyone in the household. Yes, smoke alarms are essential. But they can only alert us to the presence of smoke. Uniquely, home fire sprinklers go beyond that important task, controlling a fire when it’s still small and often extinguishing it. That curbs the growth and spread of deadly smoke, and gives families precious time to safely escape, regardless of age or ability or personal action in response to the alarm. As lifestyles keep evolving and more people of different ages are living together and working remotely, homes are being occupied for longer hours and used in new ways. Every new home built without fire sprinklers is substandard from day one. That impacts the entire community, including the fire service. What can you do? Make home fire sprinkler education a permanent part of your community risk reduction work. Focus outreach on local officials, builders and developers, and of course consumers, especially those folks planning to build or buy a new home. You are their trusted resource for information about home fire safety. As always, NFPA is here to help you. Tap into our free resources. And for home fire sprinkler content, use the free turnkey tools from the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition (HFSC) that make it easy for you to educate all your local target audiences. Create a space on your website to offer facts about the value of building new homes with fire sprinklers and link to the HFSC website. Upload videos and other content, and post cards to your social media accounts. When it comes to home fire safety, these and other related activities are a great way to raise awareness of the life-saving technology of home fire sprinklers. Find this and other related information at HomeFireSprinkler.org where the site is free of advertising and all content is free to you. 

Home Fire Sprinklers Overcome Many Challenges, Improving Communities for Life

In Millersville, TN recently, growing concerns about fire department emergency response times and gaps in fire hydrant spacing led to an ordinance requiring fire sprinkler installation in new construction of single-family and townhome structures. This small, suburban city’s decision will improve public safety on many levels for decades to come. It deserves to be replicated. This latest ordinance also shines a light on just one of the fire service challenges home fire sprinklers can overcome. Emergency response can be a problem for departments of all sizes and types, rural and urban. In most communities today, fire service personnel are all-hazard public safety providers. On any given shift, they may be responding to false alarms, motor vehicle accidents, hazardous materials, and medical calls. Regardless of how many apparatus or personnel a department has, firefighters can’t be in two places at once. And however good a department’s typical response time is, that time can be dragged out by unforeseen circumstances ― think flooding, train derailments, even apparatus crashes. Home fires are a significant problem in every community. Three quarters of all civilian fire deaths occur there. Installed home fire sprinklers are game-changers for any fire department. In an unprotected house, flashover can occur in as little as two minutes or less. This kind of life-or-death emergency demands full-scale fire department response. And considering the damage after just two minutes, their response will include putting water on the fire with lines that spray 150-200 gallons per minute. A house fire with sprinklers is different. The sprinkler closest to the flames responds automatically, controlling the fire and smoke or even extinguishing it – with a fraction of the water required for an unsprinklered house fire. That fast and automatic action prevents flashover from occurring and limits the amount and spread of toxic smoke. If the home is occupied, fire sprinklers provide people and their pets extra time to escape safely. The fire department still responds to sprinklered home fires of course, but a controlled or extinguished fire can be properly managed with fewer personnel, freeing up others to address emergencies elsewhere. Ordinances like Millersville’s are occurring slowly, but steadily, and for good reason. Scottsdale, AZ’s home fire sprinkler requirement set the bar more than three decades ago. It proved then, and continues to prove today, that fire sprinklers save lives. It’s also shown there’s really no downside to requiring sprinklers, as more than half the homes in Scottsdale are now protected with fire sprinklers. The bottom line? Home fire sprinklers are one community risk reduction strategy that can help any fire department in any community. Sprinklered homes protect against emergency response time challenges as well as common residential challenges today, like greater density and closer proximity, lightweight new-construction material, limited rural water supply, steep grades, narrow roads and limited fire service personnel, to name a handful. And while we’re at it, look beyond public safety to the ways home fire sprinklers help protect the environment. When sprinklers are present in a home fire, they cut greenhouse gases, reduce water usage and minimize pollution. In fact, since 2010, FM Global calculated that home fire sprinklers would have reduced gas emissions by 97 percent. So kudos to the City of Millersville. And kudos to you if you’re working on an ordinance in your own community. Free educational resources on a range of home fire sprinkler topics are available to you on demand from the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition.   

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