The March/April issue of NFPA Journal featured a column by Research Foundation's Kathleen Almand titled "Shock of the new." In it, Kathleen states that we’re all aware of the many energy-saving technologies entering the marketplace. Those of us who use NFPA codes and standards every day are also aware that some of these technologies introduce questions that relate to electrical safety in the built environment, though these issues may not be readily apparent. It wasn’t until rooftop photovoltaic panels became widespread, for example, that concerns about de-energization and firefighter safety came to light as a result of a number of incidents worldwide.
In 2011, the Fire Protection Research Foundation conducted four projects that addressed the impact of these technologies on electrical safety, as well as an assessment of the NFPA codes and standards that might be affected. These projects have a few common attributes: an assessment of the electrical safety hazards presented by fast-moving technological developments; a review of the relevant codes and standards to ensure that their provisions are developed as needed to address these hazards; and a strong technology transfer component to provide training to the people who enforce those codes.
Those who use the NFPA codes and standards have a long history of protection against hazards associated with new technologies. The goal of all of these projects is to quantify these hazards and inform NFPA codes and standards development committees so that NFPA’s technical documents can be ready with appropriate safety-related provisions.