NFPA Today

Electrical Space: The Final Frontier

Electrical space: the final frontier. “These are the voyages of the electrical inspector.” This plays on a quote from one of my favorite Star Trek movies. Space, especially electrical equipment space in buildings, can seem like it is a final frontier because it is getting harder to come by. Or is it? Prior to the COVID outbreak, buildings were being built to house hundreds, even thousands of employees, so space for electrical and mechanical rooms was at a premium and in tight quarters. Office space, especially when being rented by the square foot, was made a higher priority. With the way that many of us work shifting due to the pandemic, designs of buildings are likely to also start shifting to accommodate the move to a more remote workforce, which occupies less space within buildings. This may cause office spaces to be consolidated, therefore giving more room for electrical and mechanical rooms. Consolidation of space for offices may be occurring, but the change in how we work appears aimed more at having open spaces being converted to conference rooms for team meetings. But no matter what is occurring in the space designated for offices or meeting rooms, the one area that cannot be compromised is the spaces about electrical equipment. There are two types of spaces around electrical equipment mentioned in the 2023 National Electrical Code® (NEC®): working space and dedicated equipment space. Each one has quite different requirements, but all aid in the safety of the worker and longevity of the installation. Working space within the NEC, in general, is comprised of three parts: Depth of Working Space - found in section 110.26(A)(1). This measurement factors in nominal voltage to ground and if there are grounded parts or exposed live parts across from the equipment. Measurements are taken from live exposed parts or from enclosure if live parts are enclosed, out the front until the minimum distance found in Table 110.26(A)(1) is met. Width of Working Space –in section 110.26(A)(2). This dimension is derived by measuring the width across the front of the 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 voltage or amperage the width will never be less than 30 inches. Height of working Space – addressed in 110.26(A)(3). This is measured from grade, floor, or platform to a height of 6.5 feet and is the width of the equipment or minimally 30 inches. All these spaces combine to form a box, if you will, that is for the qualified worker to occupy when servicing or working on the equipment. This is intended to provide room to move, which is necessary to keep them from bumping into something and possibly getting shocked or causing an arc flash. This area also allows easy access to equipment should a breaker or disconnect need to be shut off quickly. Working space is not to be used for storage according to 110.26(B). In all my years as an inspector I can’t tell you how many times I have had to write that violation during the electrical inspections. These mostly occurred on remodels where circuits and wiring were added to the existing electrical systems. I would politely remind the building owner/occupant that working space was required to help keep the electrical worker safe from exposure to electrical hazards that may be present. New to the 2023 NEC in section 110.26(A)(6) is the requirement that the grade, floor or platform in the working space be clear and as level or flat as practical for the entire required depth and width. The dedicated equipment space in 110.26(E) is just what you would think it would be; space dedicated solely for the installation of electrical equipment. Indoor dedicated electrical space is found in 110.26(E)(1)(a), which electrical inspectors often refer to as the “thumb print” of the equipment plus six feet above the top of the equipment. For example, a panelboard 20-inches wide x 6-inches deep mounted to the surface of the wall at seven feet to the top would have dedicate electrical space extending up to 13 ft above the finished floor. So the overall dedicated space is 20-inches wide x 6-inches deep up to 13 ft. In general, only electrical items are allowed within that space, which might include: raceways (and associated fittings) wireways junction boxes This list is not all inclusive, but an idea of what may be seen within the vicinity of electrical equipment. One exception to the dedicated space requirement is made for suspended ceilings with removable panels. With design limitations imposed on room size, there may be the occasional foreign system intruding into the dedicated electrical space required by section 110.26(E)(1)(a), typically becoming a violation. So, if the system was installed in accordance with 110.26(E)(1)(b), which addresses foreign systems over the dedicated electrical space, there would not be a problem. Remember our example, the top of the dedicated electrical space was 13 feet above finished floor, so the foreign system would need to be higher than 13 feet. If a foreign system is subject to condensation or leaks, the electrical equipment would require protection from such occurrences, which may also mean the system needs to be higher since the method of protection is not allowed within the dedicated electrical space. This space was put into the code to ensure adequate access to the electrical system for the installation of associated parts and to protect the electrical installation from other systems foreign to the electrical system. Electrical space: the final frontier where the voyages of the electrical inspector have explored two of the many requirements of section 110.26(A). Find more information for electrical inspectors by visiting nfpa.org/electricalinspection. You can explore the 2023 NEC by purchasing a printed copy or have NFPA LiNK® beamed to your computer.
High ceilings

New RFP Open, Due October 14, for FPRF Project: Smoke Detector Spacing on High Ceilings – Phase II

The Fire Protection Research Foundation is seeking proposals to identify a project contractor for a new project aiming to develop guidance for the installation of smoke detectors on smooth ceilings over 10 ft (3 m) in height that can be used as the technical basis for any changes to applicable codes and standards. As background, there has been confusion in design and code enforcement communities on what to do when smoke detectors are installed on ceilings higher than 10 ft (3 m). While NFPA 72®, National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code®, contains a table that allows for reduction of spacing for heat detection, it does not address spacing considerations for smoke detection based on ceiling heights. A previous literature review and gap analysis study on smoke detectors in high ceiling spaces was published by the Research Foundation in 2017. The outcomes of this study indicated that there was limited context and significant knowledge gaps that preclude the formulation of scientifically justified prescriptive requirements regarding smoke detector spacing relative to ceiling height. This study outlined a path forward to better characterize smoke detector spacing in high ceilings, such as by establishing a performance metric for smoke detectors that can be applied to high ceilings. Since the fire protection industry still needs additional information on the impact of ceiling height and detector spacing on smoke detection performance, the Research Foundation has initiated a project to address this issue through a literature review, data collection, modeling, and validation testing effort. The overarching objective of this study is to develop prescriptive guidance on the spacing of smoke detectors on ceiling heights greater than 10 ft (3 m) and specify the height at which performance-based strategies should be leveraged.  The open RFP seeking a contractor for the “Smoke Detector Spacing on High Ceilings – Phase II” project is available here or on the Foundation’s website. Instructions on how to respond are included in the RFP. Please submit your proposals to Victoria Hutchison by October 14, 2022, at 5 p.m. ET.

Fire Break

Wildfire with houses in the forefromt

Time Is Running Out! Apply for Your Community Wildfire Defense Grant Today.

With tens of thousands of communities in the United States located in wildfire-prone areas, there is an urgent need to invest in mitigation measures that will reduce the risk to people and homes. Responding to this, last year’s Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act established a $500 million Community Wildfire Defense Grant (CWDG) program to help local governments and other groups plan and implement mitigation projects. After several months developing guidelines and eligibility rules for the program, the US Forest Service has opened up the grant application process. Communities with high or very high wildfire hazard potential, those that have been impacted by a severe disaster, and those that are low-income are especially encouraged to apply. Information on the application process, award size, timing, match requirements, and other basics can be found on the Forest Service’s website. One key thing to know is that applicants will need to ground their proposed projects in their Community Wildfire Protection Plans (CWPPs). Communities without a CWPP, or those with a CWPP over 10 years old, can use the grants to develop these plans. In addition to this planning process to assess the scope of the wildfire hazard and prioritize mitigation actions, the grants can be used to build other fundamentals, like sound land-use and building practices, a skilled workforce, and an educated public. Grants can be used to support implementation and enforcement for wildfire-related codes and standards including NFPA 1140, Standard for Wildland Fire Protection, to train and certify public officials and others in the community on mitigating wildfire hazards, and to educate the public through programs like Firewise USA®. Large-scale projects, like clearing fuel breaks and defensible space on private and public land, are eligible, too. But developing the foundational tools for mitigation ensures prevention and preparedness are part of the community fabric. The deadline to apply for the CWDG is October 7. However, communities that miss out this year will have an opportunity next year, as the program is set to run for five years. The Infrastructure Act provided a valuable down payment to help lower wildfire risk for millions of homes with significant exposure. Now, it will be up to communities to sustain it. Learn more about the grant program—and download a fact sheet on how the grant money can be used to invest in NFPA resources—at nfpa.org/wildfire.

Now Accepting Nominations for the 2023 Wildfire Mitigation Awards

Established in 2014, the national Wildfire Mitigation Awards program recognizes outstanding work and significant program impact in wildfire preparedness and mitigation. By honoring the achievements of awardees, the program sponsors seek to increase public recognition and awareness of the value of wildfire mitigation efforts. The Wildfire Mitigation Awards are jointly sponsored by the National Association of State Foresters (NASF), the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC), the National Fire Protection Association® (NFPA®), and the USDA Forest Service. The program includes three awards: (1) the National Wildfire Mitigation Award, (2) the National Mitigation Hero Award, and (3) the Wildfire Mitigation Legacy Award. Effective community fire adaptation efforts can take many shapes. Creating a local mitigation coalition, implementing community wildfire protection plans, conducting community-wide assessments, promoting defensible space and home hardening, treating for hazardous fuels, and engaging fire departments and building code officials to reduce wildfire risk are ALL great examples of wildfire mitigation work. You can submit a nomination and view the nomination guidelines and selection criteria here on NASF’s website. All nominations for the 2023 Wildfire Mitigation Awards must adhere to these criteria and be submitted to this online form by Friday, November 11, 2022. To meet past Wildfire Mitigation Awardees, go to stateforesters.org/mitigation. Have questions? Please contact Meghan Marklewitz at meghan@iafc.org or (703) 896-4839. Photo: Winners of the 2022 National Wildfire Mitigation Awards (WMAs). From left: Schelly Olson, Chris Colburn (and Mike Mathis), Jonathan Riley, Danny Blevins, Paul Cada, and The Tahoe Fire and Fuels Team (Amanda Milici).

Safety Source

This Year’s Fire Prevention Week, October 9–15, Is More Important than Ever

At its core, Fire Prevention Week™ is a grassroots campaign that thousands of fire departments and safety advocates bring to life in their communities each year, delivering basic but critical home fire safety messages that better educate the public about home fire risks and how to prevent them. NFPA® statistics show a steady decline in the number of fires occurring in US homes over the past few decades. The work done in support of Fire Prevention Week each year has no doubt played a part in this progress. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for the nation’s home fire death rate, which has stagnated in recent years. In fact, you’re more likely to die in a home fire today than you were in 1980. These numbers tell us that while we’ve made great strides in teaching people how to prevent home fires from happening, there’s still more work to do when it comes to educating the public about the speed at which fires grow and spread, the small window of time they have to escape from the time the smoke alarm sounds, and how to use that time wisely to get out as quickly and safely as possible. As we celebrate the 100th anniversary of Fire Prevention Week this October 9–15 and all that has been accomplished in reducing the fire problem over the past century, this year’s theme, “Fire won’t wait. Plan your escape™,” addresses pressing challenges that remain. With the campaign just around the corner, we encourage all fire departments and safety advocates to take full advantage of the materials and resources available on our Fire Prevention Week website at www.firepreventionweek.org. A previous blog I wrote highlights the many ways the campaign can be promoted locally, whether it’s posting social media cards on your social platforms, hosting community events, sending a news release to local news outlets, or teaching age-appropriate lesson plans in the classroom—to name just a few. And there’s still time to do it! Much of this outreach can be completed quickly and easily. Overall, the public needs to learn about the value of home escape planning and practice more than ever. Fire Prevention Week presents an ideal opportunity to share these critical messages. Doing all we can to make sure as many people as possible hear and benefit from them can truly help increase their safety from fire.

Falls Prevention is also fire prevention

Fifty-two million Americans aged 65 or older make up 16 percent of the total US population. Yet they experience disproportionate injuries and deaths from fires and falls—twice the general population when it comes to fires. Falls are the leading cause of death from unintentional injuries for older adults, with nearly 1 in 3 seniors—that’s 17 million people—suffering a fall each year. This year’s Fire Prevention Week™ (FPW™) theme “Fire won’t wait. Plan your escape.™” pays particular attention to the needs of older adults in planning to safely escape their home in the event of fire.  Preventing slips, trips, and falls when evacuating is of key importance considering people may have as little as 2 minutes to safely escape their home.  Key fall prevention for safe home escape tips for older adults include:  Remove clutter in the hallways, stairways, and near exits/windows for a clear, safe path out of your home. Make sure all windows and doors can open in an emergency. If you use a walker or wheelchair, check all exits to be sure you can fit through the doorways. Keep your walker, scooter, cane, or wheelchair by your bed/where you sleep to make sure you can reach it quickly. Keep your eyeglasses, mobile phone, and a flashlight by your bed/where you sleep to be able to reach them quickly in an emergency. Consider sleeping in a room on the ground floor to make emergency escape easier. Fire service, elder care, and public health professionals have a unique opportunity to work together to reduce the growing incidence of injuries and deaths from fires and falls among older adults. As such, NFPA has undertaken a set of enhancements to our legacy Remembering When™ Older Adult Fire and Fall Prevention program, now called Steps to Safety™: Prevent fire and falls at home.   Coming out later this fall, Steps to Safety™ is still focused on pairing fire service with community partners to deliver group presentations, conduct home visits, and create a community network of resources to support older adults and their caregivers. Enhancements include a new online learning curriculum, new videos, and new social media assets.  The program remains rooted in key fire and fall prevention messages, with updated messaging on the role of medications in fire and fall risk. All training and program materials are currently being finalized and will be available on our website at a date to be released in the coming months.  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

A family

Fire Prevention Week Is the Perfect Time to Introduce, or Increase, Home Fire Sprinkler Messages

As fire departments across the United States and Canada recognize the 100th anniversary of Fire Prevention Week™ (FPW™) this month, let’s all reflect on the accomplishments of our work educating our communities on the importance of home fire safety. We have made important gains and have much to celebrate. But in virtually every jurisdiction, we also face critical challenges as we strive to prevent injury and deaths. Case in point: while the number of home fires has decreased in recent years, when home fires occur today, they are deadlier. And despite many advances that make our cities and towns safer, a person today is more likely to die in a home fire than they were in 1980. This year’s FPW theme, “Fire won’t wait. Plan your escape™,” is intended to help address these challenges. The theme inspires us to educate about the simple but important actions residents can take to keep themselves and those around them safer from home fires. Preparation and planning are the heart of this year’s focus. It’s something we all can do. And no matter the kind, size or built-in protection, every household needs a home fire escape plan and practice using it. Because of that, Fire Prevention Week is the perfect opportunity to introduce or increase your messaging about the life-saving benefits of installed home fire sprinklers as part of your outreach. This is especially true if there are new housing starts and plans for new-home developments in your area. Today’s unsprinklered homes burn faster than ever, with residents having as little as 2 minutes to safely escape from the time the smoke alarm signals. In contrast, installed fire sprinklers are designed to allow 10 minutes for people to escape. That’s vital protection that prevents injuries and saves lives. Are you new to home fire sprinkler messaging? A good place to start is by informing your community that sprinklers are an option when building a new home —but in most communities, your audience will need to ask for them. Another good lead-in is myth busting. The most common myth has always been that all sprinklers go off at once (thanks, Hollywood). You can stop that myth by reinforcing the fact that only the sprinkler closest to the fire activates to control the fire. And that sprinkler’s fast activation provides time for a safe escape. It’s important to respond to damaging myths because they tend to get more oxygen than the facts. Also, we know from decades of experience that education really works. When the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition (HFSC) surveyed more than 2000 adults*, 80 percent of millennials who had learned how sprinklers actually work said they would prefer to buy a home protected with sprinklers. Understanding millennials’ reactions to sprinkler education is important information to have because they are the age group that makes up the largest share of today’s homebuyers. So, during your FPW activities, I hope you’ll remember to include home fire sprinkler messages. Especially when you have the opportunity to talk to millennials and others who plan to build new homes. HFSC has free turnkey resources that make it easy for you, whether you want to upload content to your department website, post ready-made cards to your social media accounts, or download other educational tools, such as videos, artwork, and reproducible safety sheets. Tap into these and much more at HomeFireSprinkler.org and encourage your community to explore the website themselves. Every new home should be built with a complete system of home fire safety: early warning with working smoke alarms, a well-planned and practiced escape plan, and installed home fire sprinklers. Fire won’t wait, plan your escape. *October 2020 Opinium survey of 2000 US adults
Family in living room

Home Fire Sprinklers, Working Smoke Alarms, and Family Escape Plan Prove Vital in Protecting Homes and Lives in Maryland and Massachusetts Fires

For fire safety advocates, home fire protection success stories are big news for us. Home fire sprinklers are vital to protecting the people who live in the homes as well as our first responders. Recent successful saves in both Maryland and Massachusetts help illustrate this message. In July, a family in Fallston, Maryland experienced the unthinkable when a home fire broke out while an infant was in an upstairs bedroom. What could have gone so tragically wrong that day went perfectly in this case, thanks to fire sprinklers and signaling smoke alarms. The infant was saved. In fact, no injuries occurred in this fire and property damage was limited to the kitchen, where an unattended candle was determined to be the fire’s cause. The Fallston Volunteer Fire Company arrived at the scene at 10:15 a.m., discovering a fire in the kitchen with a single activated fire sprinkler. According to the Maryland State Fire Marshal’s Office, the homeowner had been outside the home at the time of the fire. She heard the smoke alarm, and because the activating sprinkler had controlled the candle fire, she was able to safely evacuate her infant from the second floor.  Why was this family so fortunate when every day we read the tragic news stories about other home fires? Maryland requires fire sprinklers in all new-construction homes. In a press release, State Fire Marshal Brain S. Geraci pointed out that fire sprinklers are proven to save lives, prevent injuries and protect property. The best home fire safety practice is a combination of working smoke alarms, fire sprinklers and an escape plan. This story’s happy ending proves these are a winning combination. Naturally, we celebrate each home fire sprinkler save as if it is the first. Happily, these saves are reported more frequently as more homes are being protected with fire sprinklers. Sometimes, the reports provide bittersweet real-life, side-by-side education examples. That was the case this spring, when the Hopkinton (Massachusetts) Fire Department responded to two similar home fires. Both homes were under construction and both fires were caused by the careless disposal of oily rags. Fortunately, no occupants were in either home at the time. One home was protected with fire sprinklers while the other was not.   When firefighters arrived at the sprinklered home, they found a single sprinkler had activated, confining the fire and damage to a small area in the dining room. The home had just received its certificate of occupancy and workers had been preparing for the homeowner to move in. According to Hopkinton Fire Chief William Miller, the sprinkler save was the third in that development in the past three years. Each one has involved a single sprinkler containing the fire and limiting its damage. Unfortunately, it was a very different outcome for the unsprinklered home. Upon arrival, Hopkinton firefighters found smoke and flames coming from the house, which was built in an area outside the water district and therefore had no fire hydrants. The need to bring in tankers resulted in delays in extinguishing the fire, even with mutual aid coming from multiple nearby departments. Ultimately, the house was a complete loss. The moral of these stories is that when it comes to new construction, home fire sprinklers are vital to protecting the people who live in the homes as well as our first responders. Fire sprinklers, smoke alarms and escape plans are a win-win for every community, large or small. And as the Hopkinton fire loss showed, homes built in areas without fire hydrants are a particularly strong argument for the installation of home fire sprinklers. Learn more about home fire sprinklers by visiting homefiresprinkler.org.

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