What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas…(well, not this time)

As was predicted, there were big happenings at the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA—www.nfpa.org)

Jul 1st, 2005

As was predicted, there were big happenings at the National Fire Protection Association (NFPAwww.nfpa.org) World Safety Conference & Exposition (WSC&E) Technical Committee Report session.

90A sent back to committee

After several hours of debate, one of the technical committee members recommended that the NFPA 90A Installation of Air Conditioning and Ventilation Systems report be sent back to the NFPA 90A Technical Committee for more work and consensus building. The exasperated membership agreed.

Cabling is not the only “fly in the ointment” with this report; requirements for smoke dampers also created debate.

Are there hidden agendas here? Agendas, yes. Hidden, hardly. Arguments abound that the needs for these changes are unsubstantiated and would create unnecessary cost to the consumer, as well as a nice market for the manufacturers of these products.

When children are bickering, an old mom trick is to send them into a room to settle their differences and have them report back when they have resolved the issue. As an “old mom,” I can attest to the fact that this method worked well, usually because the children would tire of being stuck in a room together and would reach a settlement to gain freedom. I can also attest that this method has not worked for the NFPA 90A Technical Committee. The 2005 Report on Comments (ROC) meeting, held at NFPA headquarters so as not to overburden the staff, lasted more than 60 hours. I saw each side try to outmaneuver or overpower the other, but no signs of the members finding middle ground.

Where does this leave us now? Good question. The technical committee-the same one that has been debating the same issues over and over-now gets to decide if they are going to turn back the clock to the ROC stage, or even all the way back to the Report on Proposals (ROP) stage and begin accepting public proposals. And then there is the matter of the 2008 National Electrical Code proposal deadline of November 1.

Appropriateness of NFPA 255

Part of this issue’s complexity is the debate over the appropriateness of the NFPA 255 Standard Method of Test of Surface Burning Characteristics of Building Materials. The jury, and the NFPA 255 Technical Committee, are still out. Some say 255 is appropriate; others say it’s not and that’s why there exists NFPA 262 Standard Method of Test for Flame Travel and Smoke of Wires and Cables for Use in Air-Handling Spaces.

A floor motion to state, “NFPA 255 is not an appropriate fire test for wire and cable” failed a floor vote, as some members of the NFPA 255 Technical Committee argued that they needed more time to consider the question. Meanwhile, others argued that UL and ETL have been using NFPA 255 to test wire and cable for “some time,” so it is appropriate. (My mother always uses the back of a meat cleaver to whack the top of a pickle jar that she is about to open. She has been doing that as long as I can remember, but that hardly makes it an “appropriate method” for loosening tops.)

The process

The codes and standards development process begins with a call for proposals from the public to amend existing documents or to develop new documents. After the appropriate technical committee receives these proposals, the committee members meet to consider and act on them. The proposals, together with the committee’s action on them and any proposals that the technical committee generates, are published in a Report on Proposals (ROP).

The documents are then open to the public for comments. After the appropriate technical committee receives these comments, the committee members meet to consider and act on them. The comments, together with the committee’s action on them and any comments that the technical committee generates, are published in a Report on Comments (ROC).

The ROP and ROC are presented for adoption at the NFPA WSC&E. For many of us the Technical Committee Report session is a key part of the WSC&E, because this is where proposed codes and standards are brought before the membership for voting and action in accordance with NFPA rules.

Voting at NFPA meetings is restricted to members of record for 180 days prior to the opening of the first general session of the meeting. Each member has one vote.

Once a report is open for discussion, anyone present can participate in the floor motions and debate. Even if you are not an NFPA member or are not registered for the conference, you still can attend a specific Technical Committee Report session to state your opinion on a particular Technical Committee Report. This does not give you the right to vote, only the right to state a position.

You simply step to one of the microphones (at this meeting there were eight), and wait to be recognized by the chair. State your name and the company or organization that you represent, and request that a particular proposal or comment that resulted in a change between the ROP and ROC be reconsidered. Others present can speak in support of or opposition to your position, and when all have been heard or the question is called, the members vote. Then it is on to the next motion.

Votes cast at the WSC&E are non-binding and only serve as the membership’s recommendation to the Standards Council to adopt the report as published; adopt it as amended on the floor, contingent on the approval of the responsible technical committee; return it to committee; or return part of it to committee.

The Standards Council decides whether or not to issue a document based on the entire record before it, including the Technical Committee Report. Anyone who wants to appeal an action on a Technical Committee Report to the Standards Council had until June 30 to file an appeal.

The Standards Council will consider those appeals on July 29, 2005 and issue all codes and standards that they recommend for adoption. If no appeals are received, the Standards Council generally accepts the recommendation of the membership as modified by any subsequent balloting of the technical committee and technical correlating committee. Codes and standards that the membership has recommended be returned to committee (as was the case for NFPA 90A) are generally not considered by the Standards Council for issuance without an appeal.

The documents issued by the Standards Council become effective on August 18, unless the NFPA president delays the effective date pending consideration of a petition to the Board of Directors. Such petitions must be filed by August 13.

NFPA membership totals more than 75,000 individuals and more than 80 organizations. It only takes 100 members present for the chair to declare quorum to hear the Technical Committee Reports and vote on whether or not to recommend to the Standards Council that a code or standard be published for use by the AHJs that are inspecting your work. Translation: If you care, then you should be there.

DONNA BALLAST is BICSI’s standards representative, and a BICSI registered communications distribution designer (RCDD). Send your questions to Donna via e-mail: dballast@swbell.net

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