According to a recent FEMA report, in the U.S.A. there are 900 large loss building fires each year, causing 35 deaths, 100 injuries, and $2.8 billion in losses. The report goes on to show that the leading cause of these fires is “heat from powered equipment”. More often than not this refers to electrical equipment.
Electrical accident cases often fall into one of three governance categories, invoking certain standards based upon accident location and ownership. The National Electric Safety Code (NESC) applies to utility equipment. The National Electric Code (NEC) applies in buildings, and product certifications such as UL standards apply within specific listed devices and appliances.
In the United States the primary defense against the electrical fire is the the National Electrical Code (NEC) or NFPA 70, published by the National Fire Protection Agency of Quincy, Massachusetts. The NEC enjoys wide acceptance and is adopted into law (often with local amendments) in all 50 states as well as a number of International jurisdictions. The standard is designed to govern the design, materials, and installation methods of electrical equipment to protect people and property from electrical hazards.
The continual refinement of the NEC has unquestionably led to the prevention of countless electrical fires. However, this trend is mitigated by one of increasing code complexity, making compliance errors more prevalent. The NEC handbook is now over 1,300 pages long and undergoes a comprehensive overhaul every three years. It follows that electrical workers, engineers, and their employers shoulder a heavy burden to remain code-proficient. Formal training and qualification programs are often undertaken by those successful in this endeavor. This said, human error is unfortunately inevitable, and the reality is that code violations are not uncommon.
Our electrical expert is chairman of his state’s electrical code committee, resulting in his ongoing involvement with the evolution of the electrical code and other standards. When the fire origin lies deep within a piece of electrical equipment, we also have the engineering know how to dissect that equipment and are often able to pinpoint the faulted component.
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