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December 21, 2016 Previous day Next day

As partners in electrical safety, NFPA knows it’s important for industry professionals to have the latest edition of NFPA 70: National Electrical Code. To that end, we are working on a series of videos that help highlight and explain the changes to the 2017 code edition that impact our industry as a whole, as well as the work you do every day.


Please join me for a look at our fifth video in this series. In this latest installment I talk through the significant changes affecting special occupancies, special conditions and special equipment. The changes can be found in Chapters 5, 6 and 7 of the 2017 NEC edition. These include:

•    Section 501.10 (A) (1) (a) covering wiring methods in Class 1, Division 1 locations has been revised to permit Type HDPE conduit for underground installations
•    Multiple revisions and additions to the terms defined in 517.2 unique to electrical installations in health care facilities
•    New 680.14 identifying the types of wiring methods required in “corrosive environments” associated with swimming pools, spa, hot tubs and other bodies of water covered in Article 680.
•    Added requirement in 700.3 (F) calling for the installation of a means to connect a portable generator where the emergency system consists of a single alternate power source.


… plus many more impactful changes from the 2017 edition that you absolutely need to know.
The following is a video preview:


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fireworks market explosion in Tultepec, Mexico

image courtesy of


An explosion at a popular fireworks market in Tultepec, Mexico, yesterday resulted in at least 29 civilian deaths and 72 injuries, according to the latest news reports; some people are still unaccounted for. The explosion ripped through San Pablito market, which is a densely populated area known for fireworks sales. The market was especially busy as people purchased fireworks for the holidays.

The cause of the explosion, which sent a series of huge plumes of smoke into the sky, has not yet been determined. However, this incident highlights the deadly potential fireworks carry.

Antonio Macias, our Latin America representative, is based in Mexico City, which is 25 miles south of Tultepec. He is following up with local authorities on how NFPA can support their efforts in the aftermath of this tragedy.

NFPA’s fireworks codes only address professional use of fireworks. NFPA 1123, Code for Fireworks Display, contains information on how to set up and operate professional outdoor fireworks displays. NFPA 1124, Code for the Manufacture, Transportation and Storage of Fireworks and Pyrotechnic Articles, establishes fire and life safety requirements for the manufacture, transportation, and storage of fireworks, pyrotechnic articles, and any components containing pyrotechnic or explosive compositions. It does not apply to the retail sales, associated storage or the use of consumer fireworks by the general public.

In this week’s edition of #101Wednesdays, I’ll take a look at what I think is one of the Life Safety Code’s most widely misunderstood requirements: emergency lighting.


We take for granted that when we’re in a public building, if the lights go out, emergency lights will kick on to illuminate the path of egress in the event of an emergency. In many, but not all, cases this is true. Emergency lighting is required by the Code where specified by the applicable occupancy chapter. In some cases, emergency lighting is always required (e.g., health care occupancies). In other cases, it depends on the number of stories in height and occupant load (e.g., business occupancies). To determine whether emergency lighting is required for a specific occupancy, go to the X.2.9 subsection of the applicable occupancy chapter, where X is the chapter number (e.g., 38.2.9 for emergency lighting requirements in new business occupancies).


Where emergency lighting is required, the performance requirements are specified in Section 7.9, which prescribes such criteria as illumination levels (average of 1 ft-candle at the floor level – and maximum delay from the time the normal illumination source fails (10 seconds – These criteria are widely understood and implemented. What are not widely understood and implemented, in my experience, are the conditions under which emergency lighting must be provided, as specified in* The emergency lighting system shall be arranged to provide the required illumination automatically in the event of any interruption of normal lighting due to any of the following:

(1) Failure of a public utility or other outside electrical power supply

(2) Opening of a circuit breaker or fuse

(3) Manual act(s), including accidental opening of a switch controlling normal lighting facilities


Let’s take a look at each of the three scenarios described in and the means by which emergency lighting might be provided.


Item (1) describes a condition where the building loses its normal, incoming power supply from the grid (e.g., lightning strikes a pole and takes out a transformer; the neighborhood is in the dark). If emergency lighting is provided by battery-operated unit lights, the units will sense the loss of power to the lighting circuit and activate, illuminating the egress path. (It’s important to ensure that the unit is wired or plugged into a lighting circuit, and not a power circuit. The unit needs to activate when the lighting circuit loses power, not a power circuit.) If emergency lighting is powered by an emergency generator (emergency and standby power system), then likewise, the system will recognize the loss of power to the building, the emergency generator will start, and subsequently power the emergency lighting circuits. In most cases, compliance with Item (1) isn’t a problem.


Item (2) describes a condition where a circuit breaker or fuse, located anywhere in the building, opens, resulting in loss of the normal means of egress illumination. This could be a breaker in a distribution panel on, say, the 8th floor of the building. If such a breaker protecting a lighting circuit trips, again, battery-operated unit lights on that circuit will activate and provide the required illumination. But what about systems powered by a generator? We wouldn’t expect the generator to come online when a breaker in a distribution panel trips. So how will emergency lighting be provided in this case? Hold that thought.


Item (3) describes a condition where someone accidentally flips a light switch and the required means of egress illumination goes dark. Battery-operated unit lights won’t activate because the circuit still has power; power has just been interrupted from the switch to the luminaire (that’s code-speak for light fixture). Likewise, we would hope the emergency generator won’t start every time someone turns out the lights (and it doesn’t). So how can we possibly meet the emergency lighting performance criteria for the scenario described in Item (3)?


It’s important to note that the Code does NOT tell the designer how to arrange the lighting circuits; it only specifies the required performance criteria. I can describe one means to meet the performance requirements of, but keep in mind, it’s not necessarily the only means: arrange the lighting circuits so that no area required to be provided with emergency lighting is normally illuminated by fewer than two separate lighting circuits, one of which is an emergency lighting circuit where an emergency generator is employed. Here’s how it works:


Scenario (1): Building loses power; all lighting circuits are de-energized; battery-operated unit lights activate, or generator comes online, transfer switch energizes emergency lighting circuit; good to go.


Scenario (2): Distribution panel breaker trips; regardless of which lighting circuit loses power, the other circuit in the same area will still be energized. As long as an average of 1 ft-candle is initially provided along the designated egress path, the emergency lighting performance criteria have been met without necessarily activating any battery-operated unit light or the emergency generator; again, good to go.


Scenario (3): Someone accidentally opens a switch controlling the normal lighting; like Scenario (2) above, the other circuit will provide the needed average 1 ft-candle. Using this arrangement, the NFPA 101 emergency lighting performance criteria are met for all three conditions.


When I describe how works in NFPA’s three-day Life Safety Code Essentials seminar, I usually see some jaws hit the table (figuratively), which indicates, to me, that these provisions are, perhaps, not being widely implemented, or enforced. It’s the Code’s intent to provide emergency lighting for any condition that causes the normal illumination source to lose power, not just failure of the building’s normal power supply.

I’m hopeful that this installment of #101Wednesdays has illuminated some of you.


Since NFPA will be closed December 24 through January 2, this will be the final installment of #101Wednesdays until 2017. I’d like to wish everyone a very happy holiday season, and I look forward to posting lots more topics next year. Until then, stay safe!




Got an idea for a topic for a future #101Wednesdays? Post it in the comments below – I’d love to hear your suggestions!


Did you know NFPA 101 is available to review online for free? Head over to and click on “Free access to the 2015 edition of NFPA 101.”

Over the course of several months, High Hazard Flammable Liquid Train (HHFT) and Pipeline Incidents have shared the news with spectacular footage of train derailments and fires and pipeline fires and spills. First responders are met with challenges from science-based risk assessment to mitigation of large scale incidents and jurisdictional concerns.

NFPA has lead the way in proactive discussions, assisting in training and educational development, awarding grants for research studies, and providing standards and guidance for added value to the responders’ knowledge and information foundation to work safely and effectively at these types of incidents.

From the provinces of Canada to local municipalities in the United States, NFPA is supporting responders, private industry, and authorities having jurisdiction with common threads based on NFPA standards coupled with subject matter expertise panels and research based workshops that further expand first responder engagement in NFPA.

           Navigate to to view the recently completed project supported by the Fire Protection Research Foundation and The Department of Transportation’ Pipeline Hazardous Materials Safety Administration on details for Enhancing Incident Commander Competencies for Management of Incidents Involving Pipeline and Rail Car Spills of Flammable Liquids. Available at the site is the project summary, High Hazard Flammable Trains On-Scene Incident Commander Field Guide, Liquid Petroleum Pipeline Emergencies On-scene Incident Commander Field Guide, the HAZMAT FLIC App and download, the report of the HAZMAT IC workshop, and the report on the KPC HH IC workshop.


Tom McGowan

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