Wednesday, October 19, 2016

When it comes to electrical installations, common sense helps address local issues national codes cannot cover

Given the immediate effects and longer term repercussions of flooding from Hurricane Sandy that impacted the energy infrastructure and critical facilities along the east coast of the United States, are you specifying electrical components differently to enable a facility to fare better in future hurricanes? 

Clearly and historically, national building codes do not take into consideration every local risk from extreme weather events or every possible human intervention. Prevailing NFPA codes still call for consideration for local needs.

For example, according to NFPA 110: Standard for Emergency and Standby Power Systems, 2016 edition, Annex A, paragraph A.7.2.4, “EPSS [emergency power supply system] equipment should be located above known previous flooding elevations where possible.” This is unchanged from the 2013 edition. But there are certain actions that, after Hurricane Sandy, in many cases, should become more common because they make sense. For example, in areas where there historically has been flooding from rivers near or distant (as in recent flooding from Hurricane Matthew in North Carolina), installing the generator for backup power on the roof so it is above flood level makes sense. Same for fuel tanks and associated equipment – get them out of the basement. 

Other common sense decisions that may not be dictated even by updated code include practices such as, in mountain regions, planning for fuel delivery before the likely first-of-winter snowstorm; or, in earthquake-prone regions, designing in electrical components, such as transfer switches, that are built to withstand earthquake forces.

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