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While many states are expanding the requirements for Arc Fault Circuit Interrupters (AFCIs), North Carolina may stand pat with state requirements. On Tuesday, Pam Elliott, an advocate of the Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors, stepped up to the plate to deliver a powerful testimony to the North Carolina Building Code Council.
“You’re talking about people’s lives and of course the most vulnerable in a fire are infants, children, the elderly and the physically and mentally disabled, so it is the job of a committee like this to protect the public, not expose them to more harm by decreasing safety standards,” she told Gloria Rodriguez of Raleigh’s ABC11.
Burned in a house fire at the age of five, Elliott has been an outspoken advocate for fire prevention standards, penning op-eds and speaking at the 2014 Home Fire Sprinkler Summit, among other things.
Elliott emphasized to the Council the tremendous hardships she has experienced first-hand physically, mentally and financially, detailing painful years of skin grafting, rejections and ill-treatment based on physical appearance, and millions of dollars spent on medical procedures. She said that the costs of requiring full-home AFCIs are minimal when compared to the life-long damages caused by electrical fires, and that safety should be the number one priority.
AFCIs guard against electrical fires by shutting down electrical systems when issues are detected. The current code adopted in North Carolina do not require them in kitchens or laundry rooms, but the proposed expansion would require them throughout the house, drawing cost concerns from builders. The current 2014 National Electrical Code (NEC), which is what is being reviewed by the Building Code Council, does require AFCI protection in these spaces.
According to Jeffrey Sargent, NFPA’s electrical code specialist for the New England, Mid-Atlantic, and Southern regions, the net retail cost for AFCIs is $30-35 per breaker greater than the suggested retail cost of the standard circuit breaker. The number of breakers the NEC requires depends on the square footage of the house as well as the number of fixed appliances.