The National Electrical Code Committee held two weeks of meetings last month in Redondo Beach, California; the purpose was to review and vote on nearly 2,500 public comments on proposals to revise the 2005 National Electrical Code (NEC). Individual technical subcommittees (known as Code-making panels), met for as long as four days each to review and vote on the public comments within their areas of responsibility.

Homeland security concerns

Each panel has jurisdiction over particular articles of the National Electrical Code; a list of panels with their scopes is shown on page 70-9 of the 2005 NEC. In addition to the 19 regular panels, a temporary CMP-20 was formed for this Code-revision cycle. Its mission was to write a new Article 585 on “Critical Operations Power Systems (COPS),” which will become part of the 2008 National Electrical Code.

The new Article 585 applies to electrical systems that must keep critical operations going in the event of a natural disaster, terrorist attack, or other emergency that causes a power outage. These include air traffic control centers; police, fire, and civil defense facilities; hospitals; 900 call centers; certain government and infrastructure functions; and facilities that handle hazardous materials such as refineries and chemical plants.

Three-stage revision process

The National Electrical Code is revised every three years to keep it abreast of evolving electrical technology and construction methods. This was the second cycle of meetings in the process leading up to the 2008 NEC. The 20 Code-making panels also met earlier in 2006, to consider change proposals. Following letter ballots and possible appeals, the next edition of the NEC will be approved at the National Fire Protection Association’s annual meeting to be held June 2007 in Boston.

More than 50 organizations are represented on NEC panels. This broad participation explains why the National Electrical Code is enforced by all 50 states, in thousands of local jurisdictions, in Mexico, and at United States-owned industrial installations around the globe.

“NFPA’s consensus procedures bring together many different interests and experts to create the National Electrical Code—a pillar of public safety in this country,” observed Brooke Stauffer, NECA executive director of standards and safety for the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA). “No other building code can match the global reach and authority of the NEC.”      EC