by Patrick McLaughlin
Yeah, I know. I climb on the abandoned-cable soapbox time and again, and see no reason to apologize for it. So get ready (or get flipping the page), because here I go again.
Not long after I wrote an article in our July issue entitled “Abandoned cable removal a dogged challenge for all” (page 25), I received a call from a gentleman who had just read my article and paid particular attention to the following line: “One potential reason for such unpredictable enforcement could be the sometimes-confounding wording within the NEC in which abandoned cable is referenced.” He suggested I might want to get in touch with Phil Janeway, who chairs BICSI’s Codes Committee ... before Phil read the article and got in touch with me. Mr. Janeway, I was informed, would not use the word “confounding” to describe those parts of the National Electrical Code that deal with abandoned cable.
Shortly thereafter, I had the opportunity to speak to Phil Janeway, and discovered the assessment I was given was absolutely true. He does not believe the abandoned-cable-removal requirements are vague, nor do they provide loopholes that would allow building owners to keep in place cable that will never again be put to any practical use. As a member of the National Fire Protection Association group that developed the original abandoned-cable requirements, he explained to me that those requirements were perfected over three revision cycles before they were finally included in the NEC. At three years per cycle, that’s as much as nine years of work. In that time, Janeway explained, the wording was pondered exhaustively.
Then he gave me his perspective on how to determine if a cable fits the definition of “abandoned.” I had never heard it put this way before. Rather than telling me when/if/why a cable not currently in use would have to be removed from a building, Janeway laid out the circumstances under which such a cable can stay in a building. Quite simply, it has to meet two requirements: 1) It must be terminated at both ends; 2) It must be tagged for future use.
End of story. No need for debate about a cable that’s terminated on one end but not the other. No getting away with tagging an unterminated cable for future use just so you don’t have to rip it out.
As one who has been guilty of treating NEC requirements for abandoned-cable removal like they’re the tax code, I found it enlightening to hear from one of the men who helped craft those requirements. Hopefully, you find it interesting too.