Put a Charge Into Your Electrical Knowledge

SSI‘s Fire Side Chat columnist Shane Clary provides a brief description on various articles within Chapter 7, Special Conditions in NFPA 70, The National Electrical Code (NEC).

I am writing while soaring high over Hudson Bay as I travel to Germany to attend the Interschutz Expo, which is held every five years in Hannover. I have been told that this is the largest exposition dedicated to fire prevention and suppression in the world. Look for my report within the next few months; in the August issue I will be discussing the 2016 NFPA Annual Meeting, which took place at the end of June.

This month, however, I will not be covering fire alarm systems. Rather I will be providing a brief description on various articles within Chapter 7, Special Conditions in NFPA 70, The National Electrical Code (NEC). For these I am referencing the 2014 edition.

Range of Electrical Applications Has You Covered

Depending on the state in which you are licensed or may be thinking about obtaining a license to install fire alarm systems in, your examination may have questions on a few articles that you may not be that familiar with, so it’s helpful to know where to turn for appropriate electrical issues. For our purposes here in the confines of Fire Side Chat space, let’s assume that you are familiar with Article 725, Class 1, 2 and 3 Remote-Control, Signaling, and Power-Limited Circuits as well as Article 760, Fire Alarm Systems.

Article 720, Circuits and Equipment Operating at Less Than 50 Volts. This entry covers installations that operate at less than 50 volts, DC or AC. These are circuits that were generally found on farms when power was received by other means than the electrical grid.

Article 727, Instrumentation Tray Cable: Type ITC. This article guides applications to instrumentation and control circuits of 150 volts or less and at 5 amps or less. These circuits may be found in industrial or processing plants.

728, Fire-Resistive Cable Systems. These circuits may be used as part of a fire alarm system, as they are employed for critical circuits in which operation during a specified time under fire conditions is required. For fire alarm applications, this could include fire safety control functions, voice evacuation systems, elevator operation or recall or shunt trip. Such circuits could also be used within emergency communications or mass notification systems, depending on the risk analysis that was a part of the design.

Article 750, Energy Management Systems. This was new to the 2014 edition of the NEC. This article applies to the installation and operation of energy management systems. Depending on the type of occupancy that you may be working in, these systems may be in place. At times the fire alarm system is required to interface with these systems. There are provisions within this article that addresses the separation of the monitoring and control of an energy management system.

Article 770, Optical Fiber Cables and Raceways. This final article within Chapter 7 applies to the installation of optical fiber cables, raceways and cable routing assemblies. With the increase of systems that are on internal networks within a protected premises, part of the wiring method for a fire alarm or security system may be in fiber cable.

Better to Be Prepared Than Left to Question

With the installation of fire alarm, intrusion detection systems, access control or CCTV you should be familiar with all of the various articles with the NEC and not just those that may have a direct link to these systems.

I recently went through the process of obtaining licenses in a few states aside from my home base of California. On several of the exams I had a number of questions related to the articles I have referenced above. If I was not conversant with at least the articles that are contained within the NEC, I would not have passed. If the state that you work in or plan on working in has a requirement for a Limited Energy exam, you will need to know these articles as well as a general understanding of the entire NEC.

Even if your state or jurisdiction does not test on these topics, as a competent installer/technician you should be aware of all of the requirements that may have a bearing on Limited Energy systems. While you may never come across an Article 720 wiring system, over time you will undoubtedly come into contact with systems being installed under Articles 727, 728, 750 and 770.


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About the Author


Shane Clary, Ph.D., is Security Sales & Integration’s “Fire Side Chat” columnist. He has more than 37 years of security and fire alarm industry experience. He serves on a number of NFPA technical committees, and is vice president of Codes and Standards Compliance for Pancheco, Calif.-based Bay Alarm Co.

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