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Fire safety code improvements for tall buildings delayed

The Cable Fire Research Association (CFRA) has expressed disappointment with recent floor action at the National Fi...


June 16, 2005  


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The Cable Fire Research Association (CFRA) has expressed disappointment with recent floor action at the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) annual meeting held earlier this month.

In response to what it described as “a large number of last minute, highly complicated and wide-ranging proposed revisions to NFPA 90A, Standard for the Installation of Air Conditioning and Ventilating Systems NFPA (2002),” the NFPA voting membership delayed consideration of all new 90A code proposals – including the consensus recommendations of the 90A Technical Committee and the Technical Correlating Committee of the National Electrical Code (NEC) NFPA (2005).

The 90A Technical Committee must now repeat the lengthy consensus-building process that it had completed earlier this year, the CFRA said in a statement.

“Given the NFPA-recognized fire hazards caused by the uncontrolled build-up of combustible communications cabling in concealed ceiling spaces in office buildings, CFRA believes that the occupants who live and work in tall buildings (i.e., Type 1 in fire endurance) and the first responders who assist them in fire emergencies would have been better served had the NFPA 90A Technical Committee recommendations been adopted.”

The consensus proposals approved by the NFPA 90A Technical Committee would have clarified and simplified existing requirements that the use of any product exposed to the air flow in concealed ceiling plenums — including wire and cable — must have high fire performance characteristics (e.g. must meet non- or limited-combustible criteria), or be protected (e.g., combustible cable in conduit, or with plenum-sprinklers).

Although disappointed with the delay in adopting these important code refinements, the CFRA noted that NFPA 90A, as well as NFPA 13, Installation of Sprinkler Systems NFPA (2002), NFPA 70, National Electrical Code NFPA (2005), and other NFPA codes continue to require that the concealed spaces in the ceilings of tall buildings should be adequately fire protected if they contain combustible communication and data cabling materials.

Found in most office buildings, combustible communication and data cable has the potential to spread and fuel fires throughout tall buildings and can generate 800% more smoke than wood, which would seriously impair the visibility of fire fighters or escaping office workers in the event of a fire.

The mandate of the CFRA is to improve the fire safety of communication cables. Members include major global manufacturers of electrical and optical communication cables and related materials.