Topic: Electrical

NFPA 1: Electrical Fire Safety and Relocatable Power Taps (power strips), #FireCodeFridays

One of the more common code violations with regards to electrical safety provisions in NFPA 1, Fire Code, relates to power strips (referred to as power taps in the Code.)  Just this week I was sitting in a conference room at an NFPA Technical Committee meeting and multiple committee members lost power to their computers at the same time.  Upon further investigation, we found that the power strips were plugged into one another (daisy-chained) to provide a series of power strips to serve computers around the room.  One power strip was accidentally powered off, so multiple strips were affected, a code violation many overlook.  For compliance, each power strip should have been plugged into a permanently installed outlet. Section 11.1 of NFPA 1 provides provisions for basic electrical safety.  Topics addressed in this section include relocatable power taps, mutiplug adapters, extension cords, and the building disconnect. The approval of new electrical installations or approval of modifications to an existing electrical system is a function typically performed by an electrical inspector or other building code enforcement official using the requirements of NFPA 70®, National Electrical Code®. However, in many cases, prior to a building or other facility being constructed or occupied, fire marshals or fire inspectors perform periodic inspections to ensure that the safety systems and features of the premises are in place, are in proper working order, and have not been compromised or adversely modified. Here the requirements of NFPA 1 can provide basic guidance to fire inspectors to assist with identifying proper and safe installations. With regards to relocatable power taps (power strips), Section 11.1.4 of NFPA 1 states the following: 11.1.4 Relocatable Power Taps. 11.1.4.1 Relocatable power taps shall be of the polarized or grounded type with overcurrent protection and shall be listed. 11.1.4.2 The relocatable power taps shall be directly connected to a permanently installed receptacle. 11.1.4.3 Relocatable power tap cords shall not extend through walls, ceilings, or floors; under doors or floor coverings; or be subject to environmental or physical damage. Power strips are commonly used for computers, printers, and other electronics at workstations, offices, and dormitories, where additional electrical power receptacles are needed. During inspections, power taps that are plugged into other power taps (daisy-chained) should be removed, because such arrangement is prohibited. Relocatable power taps are for temporary use and should not take the place of permanently installed receptacles. In addition, power strips should not be connected to extension cords to extend their reach.  Ideally, where extension cords are used for other than temporary purposes, additional permanent receptacles should be installed to accommodate the power strips. Understanding basic electrical safety practices can be instrumental in preventing fires in residences, hotels, dormitories and offices, among other locations.  For additional information, check out NFPA's resources on electrical safety! You can follow me on Twitter for more updates and fire safety news @KristinB_NFPA. 
Electrical Safety

ESFI reinforces proper use of extension cords to reduce risk of electrical fires

At home or at work, all of us at one time or another have used extension cords to power up a lamp or TV, computers, our electronics and other gadgets. But did you know that if you use these cords the wrong way, you could start a fire? Yes, in fact, roughly 3,000 home fires start in extension cords each year, so it's important to keep safety in mind when using them. All through the month of May, Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI) is promoting National Electrical Safety Month with tips, tools and resources to help raise awareness of electrical safety. This week we're highlighting ESFI's extension cord safety infographic, which provides important steps you can take to help you and your family reduce the risk for damage or injury when using extension cords throughout your house. Download it for free and share with family and friends. Think you've got safety under control? Take a look at an extension cord you may have in your living room, kitchen or bedroom. If it looks like a spider web with multiple cords protruding out of it, It means you have too few outlets in the room for your needs. Solution? You'll want to consult a licensed electrician and consider having additional outlets installed in the room and throughout the house. This is just one of the many safety tips you can get from ESFI. Review the infographic to get more resources that will point you in the right direction. You can also get great information on NFPA's electrical safety webpage including a downloadable tips sheet and video.
Security Bars
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Electric and Hybrid Vehicle Fire Suppression

With the increasing prevalence of electric (EV) and hybrid vehicles all over the world, it is important for the first and second responder communities to be educated on the various unique safety risk these vehicles may present. Since 2010, the National Fire Protection Association's (NFPA) Alternative Fuel Vehicle Safety Training Program has teamed up with major auto manufactures, subject matter experts, fire, law enforcement and safety organizations in order to address these safety needs.  Through our years of research and work in this field we have developed a comprehensive curriculum for first responders when dealing with alternatively fueled vehicles which include instructor led classroom courses, free interactive online learning, an Emergency Field Guide, and informational/educational videos. Here are a few important takeaways on EV and hybrid fire safety for first responders: When suppressing a vehicle fire involving an EV or hybrid, water is the recommended extinguishment agent. Large amounts of water may be required, so be sure to establish a sufficient water supply before operations commence. As with all vehicle fires, toxic byproducts will be given off, so NFPA compliant firefighting PPE and SCBA should be utilized at all times. DO NOT attempt to pierce the engine or battery compartment of the vehicle to allow water permeation, as you could accidentally penetrate high voltage components. Following extinguishment, use a thermal imaging camera to determine the temperature fluctuation of the high voltage battery before terminating the incident, to reduce re-ignition potential. For more information on EV and hybrid vehicle safety, we encourage all first and second responders to visit our website at EVSafetyTraining.org to take our free online training and utilize our various resources. For inquiries or questions please contact me at aklock@nfpa.org as the Project Manager of NFPA's Alternative Fuel Safety Program.
Wind turbine

Wind turbines as confined spaces

Typically we think of climbing down into tanks, vaults or manholes for confined space entries.  Most would not think of wind turbines as having confined spaces.  Large enough to enter and perform work, restricted means of entry or egress and not designed for continuous human occupancy…. Wind turbines clearly have components that meet the definition of a confined space AND they have potential hazards.  With the push towards green energy, wind turbine installations are increasing rapidly.  In 2012 wind energy became the number one new energy source, with over 45,000 wind turbine installations currently in the U.S., according to AWEA (American Wind Energy Association).   Photos: www.OSHA.gov While green technology may be good for the environment, it is not without hazards to the workers who install and maintain the technology.   As OSHA indicates on their Green Job Hazards webpage, “Green jobs are not necessarily safe jobs”. Hazards for workers in wind turbines include falls, electrical, mechanical, fire, and confined space hazards. Both OSHA and AWEA have pointed out the need for confined space training of wind turbine workers.   Confined spaces exist during construction and after installation of the turbines.  There are four main components that may be considered confined spaces; the tower (vertical support), the nacelle (the housing that contains the electrical components) the hub (hub attaches to nacelle) and the blades (attach to hub).  During construction of the turbine workers may need to enter sections of the tower, nacelle, hub or blades to finish seams, grind, paint, etc.    When fully installed, workers need to climb up the tower to reach the narrow, restricted spaces of the nacelle, hub and blades for maintenance, inspection and repairs.  Electrical hazards have been the source of a number of fatalities and fires in wind turbines within the confined spaces.   An electrical incident or spark that occurs in the nacelle can quickly engulf a worker whose only way to exit the space is to descend a several hundred foot ladder or to climb on the roof of the nacelle. Some nacelles are made with polystyrene type foam which is extremely flammable and adds to the fire risk.  Nitrogen used in the accumulator, off-gassing of construction materials, poor ventilation and sources such as decomposing birds or rodents, can create a hazardous atmosphere.  And if something goes wrong inside a wind turbine, the challenges to rescue are significant.      The National Fire Protection Association is developing a Best Practices Document for confined space entry. This document will address gaps in existing standards and will be more prescriptive in describing things like how to identify potentially toxic atmospheres and select the proper gas monitor for entry and how to include the evaluation of adjacent spaces into your confined space entry program.    This is a document that is looking to go beyond the minimum standards and will provide those looking to develop a “gold star” confined space entry program with the information they need to do so.  Please email me at npearce@nfpa.org for further information and/or leave a comment below for discussion.  I look forward to hearing from you!
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