Surprisingly, It's Not Done

The ABR Consulting Group, Inc. has been following recent National Electric Code (NEC) requirements to remove abandoned electrical and telecom cable from existing buildings.  As part of this subject, we review other material on the on-going performance and safety testing of the both the materials that go into the construction of the finished cables and the finished cables themselves.  

Of particular interest to us is the toxicity of materials in a cabling system should a fire event unfold.  In a recent newsletter article by Frank Bisbee, President of Communication Planning Corporation (or a member of his staff) we offer the following paragraph on this topic.  

Communications infrastructure (cabling & connectors) is focused on two major areas - performance and safety.  Typically, performance is placed in the arena of standards and safety is related to codes.  Most of the information provided by the manufacturers deals with performance and interoperability.  The information about safety is usually described in relationship to meeting certain codes.  

Safety is too important to ignore.  There are two major areas of concern that remain undressed in the NEC 2002 (National Electric Code).  As the building industry is besieged with litigation revolving around the mold toxicity issue, we asked the "BIG" question.  Does the testing process for fire safety measure the TOXICITY of the cables when overheated or burned?  The answer is shockingly "NO".  Remarkably, fire safety performance over time (SUSTAINABILITY) is also not measured.  

Currently in the cabling marketplace, limited combustible cable is touted as the premier cable construction for fire safety.  Limited combustible cable (by all current manufacturers) is only insulated and jacketed with FEP (fluorinated ethylene propylene). 

The fire testing (per NFPA 90A-National Fire Protection Association) includes maximum potential heat value of 3500 btu/lb, and maximum smoke developed index of 50 for the NFPA 255 surface burning characteristics test.  The cable is UL (Underwriters Laboratories) approved and marked CMP-Limited Combustible.  The testing (NFPA 90A) for smoke generation and flame spread is more stringent that the tests (UL910/NFPA 262) for CMP.  At this time, FEP appears to be the only material commercially available that will pass the LC test.  Certainly, it would seem that more stringent fire testing is good.  But, is it really? 

In the last cycle of the National Electric Code (NEC 2002) two important developments for the cabling industry took place.  First, the need to reduce the fuel load in the return air plenums was identified and the code added a provision for the removal of "abandoned" cable.

The NFPA is currently wrestling with new issues for cabling safety that will be considered for the next cycle of the NEC (NEC 2005).  In mid August, the NFPA 90A committee is scheduled to meet to deal with several areas of concern.  Topics included in their published agenda, are the discussions about the use and applications of limited combustible cable.  Several parties have discussed the use of LC cables in Air Ducts in addition

Frank's email is  His website can visited at  Frank has a great newsletter.  


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