One of the more common code violations with regards to electrical safety provisions in NFPA 1, Fire Code, relates to power strips (referred to as power taps in the Code.) Just this week I was sitting in a conference room at an NFPA Technical Committee meeting and multiple committee members lost power to their computers at the same time. Upon further investigation, we found that the power strips were plugged into one another (daisy-chained) to provide a series of power strips to serve computers around the room. One power strip was accidentally powered off, so multiple strips were affected, a code violation many overlook. For compliance, each power strip should have been plugged into a permanently installed outlet.
Section 11.1 of NFPA 1 provides provisions for basic electrical safety. Topics addressed in this section include relocatable power taps, mutiplug adapters, extension cords, and the building disconnect. The approval of new electrical installations or approval of modifications to an existing electrical system is a function typically performed by an electrical inspector or other building code enforcement official using the requirements of NFPA 70®, National Electrical Code®.
However, in many cases, prior to a building or other facility being constructed or occupied, fire marshals or fire inspectors perform periodic inspections to ensure that the safety systems and features of the premises are in place, are in proper working order, and have not been compromised or adversely modified. Here the requirements of NFPA 1 can provide basic guidance to fire inspectors to assist with identifying proper and safe installations.
With regards to relocatable power taps (power strips), Section 11.1.4 of NFPA 1 states the following:
11.1.4 Relocatable Power Taps.
22.214.171.124 Relocatable power taps shall be of the polarized or grounded type with overcurrent protection and shall be listed.
126.96.36.199 The relocatable power taps shall be directly connected to a permanently installed receptacle.
188.8.131.52 Relocatable power tap cords shall not extend through walls, ceilings, or floors; under doors or floor coverings; or be subject to environmental or physical damage.
Listed relocatable power tap.
Power strips are commonly used for computers, printers, and other electronics at workstations, offices, and dormitories, where additional electrical power receptacles are needed. During inspections, power taps that are plugged into other power taps (daisy-chained) should be removed, because such arrangement is prohibited. Relocatable power taps are for temporary use and should not take the place of permanently installed receptacles. In addition, power strips should not be connected to extension cords to extend their reach. Ideally, where extension cords are used for other than temporary purposes, additional permanent receptacles should be installed to accommodate the power strips.
Understanding basic electrical safety practices can be instrumental in preventing fires in residences, hotels, dormitories and offices, among other locations. For additional information, check out NFPA's resources on electrical safety!