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AFCI Rules Not Only in the NEC


Not all electrical requirements are in NFPA 70! I know how much you are interested in AFCI's. One topic you haven't touched on is the requirement of AFCI circuits in LIBRARIES and CHURCHES.

NFPA 909 - Code for the Protection of Cultural Resources, applies to new buildings used as a cultural property, additions or alterations made to a cultural property, or existing buildings that change use to a cultural property. "Cultural properties" are sites or structures that are culturally significant or house culturally significant collections including, but not limited to, museums, libraries, historic structures, and places of worship (baptism, marriage, funeral records, etc.).

3.8 Electrical Hazards.
3.8.1 Portable electrical appliances shall be connected to a building electrical circuit that is protected with an arc-fault circuit interrupter (AFCI).

Exception: Portable electrical appliances that are provided with thermal and electrical limit controls that will cause the appliance to failsafe if they malfunction.

Paul A. Harouff, P.E.
Senior Electrical Engineer
Washington, DC 20016

Mike Holt Response: Are you saying that NFPA 909 was legally adopted by some government agency? If not, then it's not a legal requirement, but this is very interesting.

What is the title to Chapter 3 and Section 8 and does this requirement apply to all receptacles in a museums, churches, and libraries?

God Bless, Mike Holt, 1-352-429-5577

Paul's Response: I don't know if any government has adopted it as law. I also don't agree with the philosophy that, if it's not law, it doesn't have to be done. Some things you should do just because it's right.

You also have to consider the liability of not complying with a nationally recognized standard, even if it isn't law. If an electrician is upgrading the electrical system in a church or library, is he professionally responsible to point out to the owner that the latest fire prevention standards recommend that portable appliances be plugged into AFCI circuits?

I also see this as a marketing opportunity. While most major museums are aware of NFPA 909, how many libraries and churches are? When an electrician is approached about upgrading an electrical system, he could point this out to get more work.

According to NFPA 909 Appendix A, overloaded, incorrectly installed, and old or damaged electrical distribution is the second most frequent cause of fires in libraries and churches. Between 1980 and 1997 there were an average of 198 library fires per year with 40 (19.9%) caused by electrical distribution. Between 1980 and 1997 there were an average of 1605 church fires per year with 236 (14.7%) caused by electrical distribution. The number one cause in each case was arson or suspicious causes (40.1% and 32.7%).

Church fires are particularly bad because they are typically not constructed using compartments to contain fires at their source. Churches need to take fire prevention precautions to protect baptismal, wedding, funeral, and other historical records, which are irreplaceable.

I don't know how many times I've walked into churches and found portable space heaters in the office for the secretary or receptionist. Not to mention coffeemakers, toaster ovens, and microwaves on a counter in the corner of the office.

Paul A. Harouff, P.E.
Senior Electrical Engineer

Mike Holt Comment: Interesting.

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