To The Editor

Abandoned cable: All about safety... and some pocket change

Abandoned cable: All about safety... and some pocket change

Reading your editorial on abandoned cable ("Installers taking varied approaches when dealing with cable removal," December 2002, page 7), it struck me that you did not hit on the fact that communications cable—even old Thinnet—can be scrapped for money.

It may only be pennies a pound, but it does add up. I scrapped out cable from a small college campus and from one building we made enough money to get take-out on Fridays for a crew of ten men. Some companies I've worked for use the money from the scrap cable to pay for the gas in their trucks, and some even threw a Christmas party with the money. Others have used it to pay for personal items, like boats, motorcycles and, in one case, a family ski trip.

Abandoned cable is more of an asset if it's used the right way. It may offset the cost of manpower if you recycle it.

Chris Thomas, technician
Member, IBEW Local 96
LAN-Tel Communications
Norwood, MA

The focus on safety in the cabling workplace takes many forms. The abandoned cable issue is, in many respects, the "Pandora's Box" of 2003. Fire safety, public health, indoor air quality, indoor environmental quality, and a myriad of other important aspects of the abandoned cable scenario are included in this "opportunity."

There are many facets to safety as it relates to cabling, and we believe Cabling Installation & Maintenance magazine should be recognized for its leadership role in this topic. Safety is too important to ignore.

Frank Bisbee, president
Communications Planning Corp.
Jacksonville, FL

We are a company that specializes in the removal of abandoned cabling in commercial office buildings, and have been doing this for almost ten years. I sympathize with contractors who are confused by this issue, but given our experience, it is long overdue. In some cases, the removal is a simple process, but some jobs can be very technical and require the installers to take special precautions to prevent service outages to other tenants. The issue of who pays for the removal of abandoned cabling is a simple one—the user who installed it.

Building owners have in the past taken a hands-off approach to cabling issues in their buildings. They allowed tenants to do whatever they wished in the confines of their leased space. This is changing. Organizations such as the Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA) and other national groups have taken a proactive approach, and have even published manuals on how to manage telecommunications facilities (for a profit) to provide the best services for their tenants.

We have been working with these groups of people to provide solutions to these issues for many years now, and have had many successes. In our area, many leases now include language that spells out what is expected when a tenant vacates the space. Some of the requirements are:

  • Leave the space in the same condition it was in for move-in;
  • Remove all low-voltage cables from the space within two weeks of vacating, or the building will contract out the removal and deduct the costs from the security deposit;
  • Leave the system in a reusable condition, including all documentation and test results, jacks, patch panels, and drawings.

I cannot say how many times we have been called in to clean a space after the tenant left, and found all the data cables cut off where the patch panels should be, rendering an otherwise reusable cabling plant totally unusable. Building managers need to meet with tenants prior to the move-out date and ensure that the tenant is aware of its responsibilities. Then the tenant can arrange for the removal or arrange for the building to perform the cleanup and bill the tenant for the cost. This would help the next contractor, because the space would either be clean or would have a fully documented and reusable distribution system.

And let's not forget that that there are other issues some cablers do not fully understand, which building owners must deal with after a tenant leaves. Not only does a tenant require cabling within its own leased space to connect all of its devices, but the tenant also requires connections to building-owned infrastructure (i.e., riser and central office cables). When a tenant leaves, these connections should be removed and pairs made available for reuse. This way, the next tenant will have access for easy reconnection, and not have to listen to an installer explain that no spare pairs are available because nobody removed the previous tenant's abandoned crossconnects. This type of cleanup can require more expertise and time than removing horizontal cables, but it is just as important to the future tenants who will require services.

Contractors should not be caught in the middle of this issue. They need to be aware of the Codes, and inform their customers that the National Electrical Code requires removal, and that it really is a life-safety issue. The building owners need to step up and take control of their own buildings, or we will continue to have the same conditions we now have—multiple cabling systems in the same place, with only one being used.

Rick Sirotiak, RCDD
Cable Transport Systems
Evergreen, CO

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