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What is AWM and can I use it for field wiring and comply with the NEC?

Posted By Underwriters Laboratories, Tuesday, January 01, 2008
Updated: Friday, February 08, 2013

Question: AMW wire

I encountered some wire that was marked AWM and was marked with a style number, yet there was no type marking on the insulation that is mentioned in Article 310 in the NEC. What is AWM and can I use it for field wiring and comply with the NEC?


AWM is an acronym for Appliance Wiring Material. AWM conductors are UL recognized component wires evaluated for specific uses. Each style number has a specific use. The use statement is found on the style page. The AWM style pages can be located on UL’s Online Certification Directory at and select Appliance Wiring Material (AWM) from the Specific Searches menu. The style number is optionally printed on the surface of the wire. Recognized components are products that are incomplete in constructions or evaluated on a limited basis and are not intended for field installation, they are intended for factory installation in an overall Listed product, where the Listing engineer of the equipment evaluates the suitability of the type of wiring for the intended use.

AWM is not identified in the NEC and is not intended for field installation in accordance with the NEC. Conductors identified as AWM may also be identified as a Listed building type conductor if evaluated for both sets of requirements and dually rated. If the conductor is dually rated then it can be installed in accordance with the NEC for the specific building type conductor identified on the conductor insulation.

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Tags:  January-February 2008  UL Question Corner 

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Some ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) receptacles that carry a rating of 20 amps are provided with a 15-A NEMA configuration receptacle. Can you tell me why the GFCI is not the same?

Posted By Underwriters Laboratories, Tuesday, January 01, 2008
Updated: Friday, February 08, 2013

Question: GFCI without 15-A NEMA configuration receptacle

A standard 20-amp rated duplex receptacle has a NEMA 20-A polarized configuration, however, some ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) receptacles that carry a rating of 20 amps are provided with a 15-A NEMA configuration receptacle. Can you tell me why the GFCI is not the same?


Ground-fault circuit interrupters are Listed under the category of the same name with the category code (KCXS) located on page 170 in the 2007 UL White Book. Ground-fault circuit-interrupter receptacles are evaluated for compliance with the Standard for Safety for Ground-Fault Circuit Interrupters, UL 943. Presently, UL 943 addresses GFCI ratings in terms of their contact rating. Since the NEC permits all 15-ampere receptacles to be used on 20-A branch circuits, the contacts are required to be rated at 20 amps since they open the downstream portion of the branch circuit connected to the load terminals. The Standard requires the contact rating to be marked on the GFCI so that even if the receptacle is a 15-A configuration, it will still have a 20-amp rating. Some manufacturers mark the devices 20-A, 15-A receptacle.

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Tags:  January-February 2008  UL Question Corner 

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In the 2008 NEC, Section 406.8(A) and (B) require receptacles installed in damp or wet locations to be weather-resistant. How will these be identified?

Posted By Underwriters Laboratories, Tuesday, January 01, 2008
Updated: Friday, February 08, 2013

Question: Receptacles in damp or wet locations

In the 2008 NEC, Section 406.8(A) and (B) require receptacles installed in damp or wet locations to be weather-resistant. How will these be identified? Are they also available in GFCI receptacles?


Weather-resistant receptacles are Listed under the category Receptacles for Plugs and Attachment Plugs, (RTRT), located on page 284 in the 2007 UL White Book. The UL Guide Information for RTRT in the 2007 White Book does not include the marking information for weather-resistant receptacles; however, the information is available on UL’s Online Certification Directory at and enter RTRT at the category code search.

The Guide Information for (RTRT) states that "Receptacles for use in wet and damp locations in accordance with Article 406 of the NEC are identified by the words "Weather Resistant” or the letters "WR” where they will be visible after installation with the cover plate secured as intended.” Weather-resistant receptacles are also available as tamper-resistant receptacles.

Ground-fault circuit-interrupter (GFCI) receptacles are Listed under the category Ground-Fault Circuit Interrupters (KCXS), located on page 170 in the 2007 White Book, or on UL’s Online Certification Directory at and enter KCXS at the category code search. GFCI receptacles are also available in weather-resistant receptacles as well as weather-resistant and tamper-resistant receptacles.

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Tags:  January-February 2008  UL Question Corner 

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How are Listed tamper-resistant receptacles identified?

Posted By Underwriters Laboratories, Tuesday, January 01, 2008
Updated: Friday, February 08, 2013

Question: Listed tamper-resistant receptacle

Section 406.11 of the 2008National Electrical Code(NEC) requires receptacles installed in dwelling units to be tamper resistant. How are Listed tamper-resistant receptacles identified?


Tamper-resistant receptacles are Listed under the product category Receptacles for Plugs and Attachment Plugs, (RTRT), located on page 284 in the 2007 UL White Book or on UL’s Online Certification Directory enter RTRT at the category code search. The Guide Information for RTRT will be updated in the 2008 White Book to reflect the requirements in dwelling units as indicated below.

The Guide Information for RTRT online states, "Tamper-resistant receptacles are receptacles for use in dwelling units in accordance with the NEC, specifically Section 210.52, or in pediatric patient care areas in accordance with Article 517 of theNEC, and are identified by the words ‘‘Tamper Resistant’’ or the letters ‘‘TR’’ where they will be visible after installation with the cover plate removed.” Tamper-resistant receptacles may be of the general-grade, hospital-grade or isolated-ground type.

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Tags:  January-February 2008  UL Question Corner 

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Selective Coordination – Responsibilities of the AHJ

Posted By Mark Hilbert, Thursday, November 01, 2007
Updated: Saturday, February 09, 2013

Selective coordination ensures proper isolation and localization for all possible overcurrents (from overloads to maximum short-circuit currents at the point of application) to the nearest upstream overcurrent protective device and prevents unnecessary loss of power to other loads, especially loads essential for life safety. The Code requires selective coordination for all supply-side overcurrent protective devices in the circuits to a limited number of life-safety related loads. Selective coordination is just one of many requirements in the Code that ensures that these vital loads that are essential for safety of human life remain energized without interruption. This is especially important in times of emergency such as might occur during fires, natural disasters, man-caused disasters, building failures, loss of utility power, and other situations. The investment of an alternate power source can be negated by the application of overcurrent protective devices that are not selectively coordinated. The life safety benefits of the selective coordination requirements include, but are not limited to:

  • Increased system reliability by maintaining power availability to vital loads
  • Reduced unnecessary power outages
  • Increased safety for building inhabitants
  • Quicker power restoration when a fault occurs

Figure 1

Figure 2

As with many Code requirements, a proactive approach by the authority having jurisdiction (AHJ) is the key factor as to whether circuits supplying these vital loads employ overcurrent protective devices that are selectively coordinated for all eventualities. There are four important considerations to keep in mind:

  1. It concerns the integrity of the life safety system
  2. Three code panels have now included selective coordination requirements in four Code articles
  3. Selective coordination can be achieved using circuit breaker systems, fusible systems, or various combinations.
  4. To enforce the requirements, the AHJ only needs to know the requirements and understand the concept of selective coordination. The AHJ does not have to be an expert at device coordination—that is the responsibility of engineering and design.


Selective coordination requirements for life safety are not a new concept for the Code. There has been a Code requirement to coordinate selectively the overcurrent protective devices for elevator circuits since 1993. The overcurrent protection selectivity in 620.62 is crucial for a few specific reasons such as not stranding passengers for normal operation and for emergency egress as well as keeping elevators in use for emergency firefighting operations. The original elevator requirement evolved from the Canadian Code where the substantiation recognized that selective coordination ensures faster restoration of power (the electrician does not have to search for upstream panels where the overcurrent devices unnecessarily cascaded open).

Figure 3

NEC-2005 expanded the selective coordination requirements for emergency system loads and legally required standby system loads via 700.27 and 701.18. Also, the definition coordination (selective) was moved to Article 100 from Article 240. NEC-2008 includes a selective coordination component in the exception to 700.9(B)(5). Section 517.26 includes selective coordination for the essential electrical systems in health care facilities since it is required to comply with Article 700 requirements, unless otherwise amended in Article 517. Examples of loads that require selectively coordinated overcurrent protective devices in the supplying circuit paths would be emergency and egress lighting for the safe evacuation from a building, and to assist in crowd and panic control.

Also, in many cases, ventilation, pressurization systems, automatic fire detection systems, voice/alarm communication systems, smoke control systems, fire command center systems, fire alarm systems, elevators, elevator car lighting, fire pumps, public safety communications, and continuous processes may be classified to be supplied by an emergency or legally required standby system by the authority having jurisdiction or the locally adopted building code. Where hazardous materials are manufactured, processed, dispensed, or stored, ventilation, treatment systems, temperature control, alarm, detection, or other electrically operated systems may be classified to be supplied by emergency or legally required standby systems. The essential electrical systems of health care facilities include the loads on the critical branch, life safety branch, and equipment branch. The emergency system of a hospital is made up of two branches of the electrical system that are essential for life safety and for the health and welfare of patients receiving critical care and life support. These two branches are the life safety branch and the critical system branch.

Figure 4

In the 2008 Code process, every selective coordination requirement was challenged. With plenty of pro and con proposals and comments submitted, after presentations at the code panel meetings by interested parties on both sides of the argument and after deliberate and thorough discussion by the respective code panels, the existing requirements were overwhelmingly retained; a clear message by the NEC technical committees. Panel 12 voted unanimously (11–0) to retain the requirement for selective coordination in elevator circuits. Panel 13 voted 11–2 to add exceptions to 700.27 and 701.18 for two devices of the same ampere rating in series and single devices on the primary and secondary of a transformer. (It was felt that neither exception reduced life-safety because no additional parts of the electrical system would be shut down unnecessarily.) These exceptions were added by comments 13-185 and 13-238. In addition, the new Article 708 Critical Operations Power Systems included selective coordination requirements via 708.54. Article 708 concerns itself with systems powering loads vital to public health and safety, national security, and the economy. The threat of events such as 9/11 and similar natural disasters as Hurricane Katrina were the catalyst for the creation of Article 708. There were four comments to reduce or eliminate the selective coordination requirement for critical operations power system loads. Panel 20 voted 16–0 (three times) and 15–1 (one time) to reject all attempts to reduce or eliminate this key life safety requirement.

Figure 5

In the 2008 Code cycle, Proposal 13-135 proposed the elimination of the selective coordination requirement for 700.27 and moving the language to a fine print note. Code Panel 13 rejected this proposal 9–4. The panel statement to this proposal sums up the matter well:

Panel Statement:This proposal removes the selective coordination requirement from the mandatory text and places it in a non-mandatory FPN. The requirement for selective coordination for emergency system overcurrent devices should remain in the mandatory text. Selective coordination increases the reliability of the emergency system. The current wording of the NEC is adequate. The instantaneous portion of the time-current curve is no less important than the long time portion. Selective coordination is achievable with the equipment available now.

Code Panel 20, which was responsible for the new Article 708, summed up the need for selective coordination in their statement to Comment 20-13, which proposed deletion of the selective coordination requirement. This comment was rejected 16–0. The actual panel statement to Comment 20-13:

Panel Statement:The overriding theme of Articles 585 (renumbered to 708) is to keep the power on for vital loads. Selective coordination is obviously essential for the continuity of service required in critical operations power systems. Selective coordination increases the reliability of the COPS system.

Following are the 2008 Code requirements for selective coordination:

Article 100 Definitions
Coordination (Selective)
Localization of an overcurrent condition to restrict outages to the circuit or equipment affected, accomplished by the choice of overcurrent protective devices and their ratings or settings.

Article 517 Health Care Facilities
517.26 Application of Other Articles
The essential electrical system shall meet the requirements of Article 700, except as amended by Article 517.

Article 620 Elevators, etc.
620.62 Selective Coordination (2005)

Where more than one driving machine disconnecting means is supplied by a single feeder, the overcurrent devices in each disconnecting means shall be selectively coordinated with any other supply-side overcurrent protective devices

Article 700 Emergency Systems
700.9(B)(5)(b), Exception

Overcurrent protection shall be permitted at the source or for the equipment, provided the overcurrent protection is selectively coordinated with the down stream overcurrent protection.

700.27 Coordination
Emergency system(s) overcurrent devices shall be selectively coordinated with all supply-side overcurrent protective devices.

Exception: Selective coordination shall not be required in (1) or (2):

(1) Between transformer primary and secondary overcurrent protective devices, where only one overcurrent protective device or set of overcurrent protective devices exist(s) on the transformer secondary,

(2) Between overcurrent protective devices of the same size (ampere rating) in series.

Article 701 Legally Required Standby Systems
701.18. Coordination

Legally required standby system(s) overcurrent devices shall be selectively coordinated with all supply-side overcurrent protective devices.

Exception: Selective coordination shall not be required in (1) or (2):

(1) Between transformer primary and secondary overcurrent protective devices, where only one overcurrent protective device or set of overcurrent protective devices exist(s) on the transformer secondary,

(2) Between overcurrent protective devices of the same size (ampere rating) in series.

Article 708 Critical Operations Power Systems
708.54 Selective Coordination

Critical operations power system(s) overcurrent devices shall be selectively coordinated with all supply-side overcurrent protective devices.

So, What is Selective Coordination?

Figure 6

Article 100 provides the Code definition. Here is another approach to describe selective coordination: "For the full range of possible overcurrents, the act of isolating an overloaded or faulted circuit from the remainder of the electrical system, thereby eliminating unnecessary power outages.” The circuit causing the overcurrent is isolated by the selective operation of only that overcurrent protective device which is the closest upstream to the overcurrent condition.

Three important conditions for selective coordination:

  • Achievable for the full range of possible overcurrents for the system involved
  • Only the closest upstream overcurrent protective device opens
  • No other upstream (larger ampacity) overcurrent protective devices open

Probably the best way to understand the concept of selective coordination is with graphics. There are multitudes of possible scenarios and these represent a few. Figures 1 and 2 illustrate selective coordination: figure 1 for a branch-circuit fault and figure 2 for a feeder-circuit fault. Figures 3, 4, 5, and 6 illustrate non-selective coordination for both branch-circuit and feeder-circuit faults. The most important aspect to visualize is the affect on the availability of power to individual loads for each scenario. Some disruption is necessary due to a fault. However, non-selective coordination causes unnecessary power disruption to some loads.

Key Aspects to Selective Coordination

Figure 7

1. With today’s many options, it is possible to design and install either fusible or circuit breaker systems that comply with the Code requirements for selective coordination. This article will not get into how to use fuses or circuit breakers to comply. If the reader is interested, contact the fuse or the circuit breaker vendors. The fuse industry has published selectivity ratio tables for decades. Since the 2005 Code requirements became effective, the circuit breaker vendors have published materials to facilitate designing selectively coordinated circuit breaker systems. This includes tables for circuit breakers that provide the maximum available short-circuit current for which specific circuit breakers are selectively coordinated.

2. These requirements are about reliability of the power system supplying the designated vital loads thus ensuring as much load availability as possible. This is the case especially in emergency situations or when the building or electrical system may be imperiled due to unusual or catastrophic conditions. The selective coordination requirement (which also includes 517) in Articles 700, 701, and 708 encompasses the overcurrent protective devices in the circuit paths of the normal source supplying these vital loads as well as the circuit paths of the alternate source supply. The requirements state, "overcurrent devices shall be selectively coordinated with all supply-side overcurrent protective devices.” These loads can be powered by the normal source or the alternate source. So, the fuses or circuit breakers must all be selectively coordinated from the vital load branch-circuit devices up through the circuit paths to the main overcurrent protective device of the normal source supply as well as from the vital load branch-circuit devices up through the circuit paths to the alternate source supply.

Figure 8

Why care about this? (see figure 7). If there is a fault on the load side of the transfer switch at X1 or X2, only the closest upstream circuit breaker or fuse (EB for X1 and EF1 for X2) is to open. Circuit breaker or fuse EF2 or the main fuse or circuit breaker is not to open (blue path on left). The overcurrent protective devices in the normal path must be selectively coordinated when fed from the normal source, because if they are not selectively coordinated, vital loads can be unnecessarily "left in the dark” (power loss). Let’s look at a couple of scenarios:

Scenario (A):If a fault occurs on a branch circuit at X1, and feeder overcurrent device EF1 unnecessarily opens, the ATS will not transfer to the alternate source because power is still available on the ATS’ line side. Yet many vital loads will be unnecessarily without power.

Scenario (B):If a fault occurs on a branch at X1, and feeder overcurrent devices EB, EF1, and EF2 all open, the ATS will transfer to the alternate source (there is no power to the line side of the ATS due to EF2 unnecessarily opening). This transfer is unnecessary and would not have to occur if the overcurrent protective devices are selectively coordinated, but vital loads will still be blacked out because EF1 has opened unnecessarily. The unnecessary transferring of the power from the normal source to the alternate source reduces the reliability of the system and can lead to unavailability of power to vital loads, if, for instance, the generator does not start or the transfer switch does not operate properly.

3. The definition and requirements for selective coordination are very clear, understandable, and enforceable. During the 2008 code-making process, proposals and comments were submitted to alter the selective coordination requirement to phrases such as "optimize selective coordination tripping,” "selective coordination for overcurrent protective device opening times of 0.1 seconds or greater,” "only apply for faults times greater than 3 cycles,” "coordination shall not be required in the current-limiting or instantaneous portions of the time-current curves,” or other similar language. In reality, these proposals and comments would have changed the requirement to coordination for only overloads or very low-level faults and ignored selective coordination for the full range of overcurrents. Moderate and higher level fault currents can and do occur. Code Panel 13’s statement in rejecting Proposal 13-135 was clear in that the requirement includes all possible overcurrent levels: "…the instantaneous portion of the time-current curve is no less important than the long time portion.” And well it should. In time of fire, catastrophes, failure of components, improper installation of components, and worker incidents, overcurrents can run the full range of values up to and including the maximum three-phase bolted fault current. High faults are less probable, but they do occur. Another phrase that is unenforceable is "selective coordination where practicable.” (Where is it delineated as to what or when selective coordination is practicable? Is it impracticable because of cost? What is the cost of a life? Is it impracticable because a selective coordination analysis may require more effort to engineer? Is it impracticable if selectively coordinated gear takes up more space?) The present selective coordination definition and requirements are very clear and achievable. These proposals and comments to change the requirement were thoroughly discussed by the code panels and overwhelmingly rejected.

Practical Approach for the AHJ

The AHJ needs to know the requirements and enforce compliance. It is nice if the AHJ understands what selective coordination means. However, it is not necessary for the AHJ to know how to achieve selective coordination at the engineering level. That requires specific know-how best left to the engineering community. The AHJ in carrying out his or her responsibilities, should require engineers to submit a selective coordination analysis for the circuit paths required to be selectively coordinated per Articles 517, 620, 700, 701, and 708. The analysis should have a summary statement clearly stating that selective coordination has been achieved and the analysis should include the engineer’s seal. (Although not all-inclusive, an example checklist is provided at the end of this article. It simplifies the record-keeping of the AHJ and puts the onus on the consulting engineer.) During installation, the AHJ should verify (spot check) that the specified overcurrent protective devices with correct ratings or settings have been installed and match the engineering design.


In recent Code cycles, safety for persons is being taken in a broader context, illustrated by requirements expanding the use of AFCIs and now requiring tamper-proof receptacles. Selective coordination of overcurrent protective devices is another requirement increasing safety for persons. The requirements pertain to the overcurrent protective devices in the circuit paths supplying a limited number of loads which are vital during emergencies or which have critical availability requirements. Selective coordination requirements entered the Code in 1993 and the requirements have continued to expand where there are life safety concerns. Circuit breaker or fusible systems can be designed and installed to comply with the selective coordination requirements. The AHJ does not have to be an expert in overcurrent protection coordination to enforce these requirements. Just be sure the engineer provides suitable documentation that includes an analysis. The analysis must encompass all the circuit paths supplying the designated loads, including the normal source path and the alternate source path to those vital loads, and for the full range of overcurrents possible.

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Tags:  Featured  November-December 2007 

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What the Industry Thinks of Inspectors

Posted By Earl E. Whitehorne, Thursday, November 01, 2007
Updated: Saturday, February 09, 2013

Every prominent official of one of the electrical inspectors’ associations has frankly asked this question, What does the electrical industry think of the electrical inspector? I am going to answer in the same frank spirit and set down plainly what I find to be the feeling among electrical men. In a word, the electrical industry does not think about the electrical inspector at all. It looks upon the inspector as something quite apart from the electrical industry. And it regards this great body of men in the light of an unorganized police force, that undoubtedly contributes to safety in the use of electricity, but, instead of keeping order, promotes disorder because it is unorganized. But electrical men who have considered the subject at all from the national and industry standpoint believe that the inspector could be made a great constructive influence for progress, and they are disappointed because he is not.

There is no question as to the industry’s need of inspectors. All men recognize the vital importance of having an established code to guide the installation of electrical wiring equipment. Therefore, there must be an inspection service to insure the observance of the code. But the electrical men believe that this inspection service should be an active, coordinated function of the electrical industry, that the inspector should be something more than a policeman.

Purpose of Inspection

In my opinion, the fault lies not in either the intent or the ability of the inspector. No man can criticize the sincerity of these men or their capacity for work. Rather the trouble comes from too limited an objective, too narrow a vision of the purposes of inspection. For both the inspector and the electrical industry have overlooked the fact that there are two very fundamental reasons both for a code and for inspection.

Economic Influence

The prevailing belief is that the sole job of the inspector is to make wiring installations safe. Of course this was the first idea. That is why the fire underwriters first organized an inspection service. These men were told to prevent fire hazards, and they have done a faithful job, as thorough a job as they were able to, in keeping the code safe. But prevention being their responsibility they have naturally leaned over backward and too far, and taken an attitude of prohibition, so that electrical men have come to feel that development and progress in the code can only be achieved through overcoming the opposition of the insurance interests and the inspectors. And being so closely focused on this work of making electrical installations safe, the inspectors have almost entirely overlooked the fact that they have another responsibility of no whit less importance—to make electric installations economical.

There is just as great an economic value in a code and inspection service as in its value for the promotion of safety. The economic value of a code and inspection service comes through its influence for the standardization of manufactured products and reduces the amount of duplication and the excess varieties of types and sizes that must be manufactured, distributed, stocked and sold. This means, of course, production in larger quantities and at lower costs. It also means convenience to the public because any lamp will fit any socket and because an appliance may be taken from one house to another and used. It means that men who buy material when they place an order know what they are going to get. It makes it possible for men who install wiring to use material from many sources on the same job, because every manufacturer’s product is not dissimilar from every other make. And without a large measure of such standardization the great development of the electrical industry would not have been possible.

Responsibility for Saving

But the inspectors, in their earnest pursuit of safety, have forgotten this economic responsibility that rests upon them. They have not taken any active part in helping to keep the manufacture, distribution and installation of electrical products simple as well as safe, from the national and industry viewpoint. And yet I believe that the inspector might have been and may still make himself an outstanding leader in this constructive work.

The great weakness of the inspector today, it seems to me, is this lack of national coordination and responsibility. It is perfectly natural that men’s opinions should differ as to whether this method of construction or that material is safest. But it is not possible to maintain an orderly and progressive industry if we permit the fundamental regulation of electrical construction to be arranged in each community to suit the local preference and prejudice, any more than you could maintain an orderly federal government and leave the national laws to be adopted and applied as any community might desire.

Costly Confusion

And, furthermore, it is not necessary—for what is safe in Ashtabula is safe in Oklahoma City. True, conditions differ in different kinds of towns, but under given conditions an electric circuit can be constructed the same way in Seattle or Sioux City, Savannah or Syracuse, and be equally secure. And yet today the rules of the electrical inspector may differ with the landscape or the locality. Consider the safety switch, that much-quoted example of inspection inconsistency. It is an iron box enclosing a switch and fuse—same kind of iron, same kind of copper, same kind of electric current, same sort of human being to handle it. Yet in one place to be officially safe the cover must be hinged at the left, while another state requires hinges at the right, while still another insists on top hinges, and a fourth locality forbids all hinges and demands set screws. A prominent jobber told me once that he was compelled to carry in stock six different varieties of one size of safety service entrance switch to meet the inspection requirements of various cities within the territory he serves. Think of the burden of extra stocks that this entails all along the line and the extra jigs and patterns back in the factory and what it costs.

In a word, the result of this present lack of inspection uniformity in the electrical industry causes a considerable degree of economic pandemonium. The inspector has been saving the public millions of dollars through reduced fire loss, but he has been causing the waste of other millions quite as valuable and as savable by lack of simplicity and uniformity in regulations that have resulted in endless duplication and excess varieties of manufactured products. The reason is that whereas the inspector has been taught his responsibility for safety, he has not been charged with his economic responsibility and he has not been interested in it. But he can be interested in it, and when he is he will render a great service to the electrical industry and to the American people and open up a great opportunity for himself.

That, I find, is about what the electrical industry thinks of the electrical inspector, with whom it has as yet had so little in common. But I am not willing to let the subject rest right here with criticism and no suggestions. I am going to tell you what I think you ought to do. If I were king of the electrical inspectors of America, I’ll tell you what I think I’d do first thing. I’d call a great convention of inspectors—have them all there in a great hall—in Chicago or New York—and I would lead on the stage a policeman from the nearest corner. I would say to these inspectors: "Look at this man and consider the case of the ‘cop’—how he has changed in the public estimation in recent years. There was a time when a policeman’s sole idea was to watch for people who were breaking laws. ‘Cheese it, the cop!’ expressed the prevailing public sentiment. He represented the power of government and worked purely by interference. Then came traffic, and the policeman took his place upon the crossing to help and not to hinder, and presto! the whole public psychology toward the cop has changed—because the spirit of the officer himself changed once he was given something helpful and friendly to do.”

What the Industry Asks

No one could ask that electrical inspectors should be any finer type of men than they are now today, or say that they must have higher principles, but the electrical industry does ask this:

First—That they get a new slant on service.

Second—That they become helpful to the public as well as protective.

Third—That they become something more than the watchdog of electric wiring.

Fourth—That they stop being an offshoot of the insurance business or merely a department of municipal government and organize as one of the great functional branches of the electrical industry, with a progressive program and a constructive purpose.

Fifth—That they cooperate with the other branches of the electrical industry to keep order in electrical construction from the national standpoint and assist in developing the art as well as preserving safety.

And again I think you will say, "All right, but how are we to set about it?” Well, I think if I were king of the electrical inspectors in America, I would set up these eight objectives and work for them—and I submit them to you for your consideration:

First—Organize into a national association of electrical inspectors to tie together all groups and build a national consciousness for the inspector and win for yourselves a position of recognized influence and leadership in the electrical industry.

Second—Become a progressive and creative factor in the development of the Code, suggesting improvements whenever the possibility appears, working conspicuously for simplicity, for flexibility and for economy as well as for safety.

Third—Become the organized champion of orderly procedure in the evolution of the Code through the approval of new products and the revision of the rules.

Fourth—Get behind the uniform ordinance that has been developed by the Electrical Manufacturers’ Council and work for its adoption in all cities as a practical means of securing uniformity of inspection throughout the land. Here is a great economic contribution which the inspector can make to the American people.

Fifth—Work for tolerance and common sense in the interpretation of the Code. Make it the consistent national policy of the inspectors that if two rules are applicable the broader should govern, since both are safe. Establish an ideal of helpfulness in inspecting rather than the spirit of prohibition and autocratic authority that is too often encountered.

Sixth—Take leadership in the encouragement of adequacy in wiring installations by suggesting to the contractors the benefits that come from more satisfying installations. I think that the inspectors should be out-and-out advocates of the "Red Seal” plan and active supporters of the local league in every community.

Can Help Lower Costs

Seventh—Wield a guiding influence to keep down the cost of electrical installations by discovering developing, and promoting possibilities for economies both in methods and material.

Eighth—Become the recognized authority on electrical safety. The inspector, being neutral, is the one man who can speak of electrical safety with complete acceptance locally. He should promote public confidence in electricity as much by teaching the public to make their wiring installations safe as by policing the work of their electrical industry.

There has been long-continued controversy among electrical men over the procedure that should be followed in admitting new products for use in electric wiring. The issues involved in this whole question involve many technicalities and traditions, and the average man is apt to be a bit bewildered. It seems to me, however, that under it all stand out these four principles to which any fair mind will subscribe:

1. The National Electrical Code and the National Electrical Safety Code, having been established as American standards under the regulation of the American Engineering Standards Committee, are no longer merely the instruments of the fire insurance underwriters nor the property of the electrical manufacturers, the contractors or the inspectors. Their function is neither to defend established products nor yet to restrict or assist new products, but solely to provide and maintain adequate protection for the American public in step with the advancing art.

2. The testing of new materials as acceptable in these Codes should be from the sole standpoint of determining the fire or casualty hazard involved in their use when the material is installed in accordance with the Code.

3. Specifications for such test should deal with the purpose and the methods of the test, but not with the construction of the material, the issue being not its structure, but its safety and dependability in the performance of its function.

4. New materials should be approached, not for the purpose of proving them good or bad, right or wrong, but by an orderly procedure to determine their fitness for admission for use under the Code.

If these four principles were clearly understood and universally accepted, there could be little basis for disagreement over new products. Men would naturally withhold judgment until proper tests were made and then abide by the results. And I believe that the inspectors can bring a helpful guidance here. If the electrical inspectors will unite and do these things and render the continuing services that will naturally suggests themselves, nobody will ever have to ask again what the electrical industry thinks of the inspector. The electrical industry will then be very conscious of the influence and importance of the inspector—and so will the American people.

Editor’s Note: This article is reprinted from News-Bulletin, January 1930, pages 3-6

Read more by Earl E. Whitehorne

Tags:  Featured  November-December 2007 

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What’s Best for Our Members?

Posted By David Clements, Thursday, November 01, 2007
Updated: Saturday, February 09, 2013

Sometime ago I was asked, "What guides you in making decisions at the board level?”

"Before I enter any discussions, I ask myself, What’s best for our members?” I answered.

It’s easy to forget and lose sight of the fact that we are a member association and while we face many challenges as a not-for-profit association, we must always consider our member needs. Running the association is similar to running a business—we must ensure we have the money in the bank to meet our financial obligations, keep up-to-date with technology, provide training and programs that meet the needs and wants of our members, develop marketing plans, run a topnotch publishing department, and the list goes on. One advantage we have as an organization is that our "strongest asset is our members”; without a strong membership base it becomes much more difficult for our association to continue present programs and grow. A decrease in membership creates the snowball effect; fewer members mean an increase in dues, a reduction in programs, or the necessity of finding other ways to generate revenue. The danger of large increases in dues is the possibility of losing members. Not a great position to be in.

That is why I consider membership as being the biggest challenge facing our association within the next several years. When we surveyed our members in 2006, you told us that approximately 50 percent of you within the next 10 years would be at the age of retirement. Of those, 21 percent, within the next 5 years; and 25 percent of you indicated you would not be renewing when you retire. Already, some members have reached retirement and have not renewed their memberships. During the pass several years our numbers have been declining, the numbers of new members joining are fewer than are those leaving the association.

I do not want to paint the picture that it’s doomsday; however, membership has become a priority at the board level. We have requested a comprehensive membership plan be developed. Under the direction of Robert Kauer, the membership committee and the IO staff have developed a plan and training session that was presented to all membership committee chairs at each of the section meetings. The chairs will be passing this plan along to the chapter and division membership committees for implementation, in hopes that it will aid in bringing in new members and in retaining existing members.

I believe that the real strength for membership development comes from the chapter level. Individuals join because either they have been invited by a colleague or the local chapter provides training and networking opportunities that the individual deems valuable to his or her career.

Our forefathers who founded this organization had a vision, "For the IAEI to be the leaders and the keystone of the electrical industry.” Let’s ensure we continue that vision as part of our mission. I encourage each of you to promote IAEI to your supervisors, managers and government officials, and to sign up and mentor a new member.

We have come a long way since 1928 when the IAEI was established; let’s continue to grow and be the leaders and the keystone of the electrical industry.

It has been an honor and a privilege to serve as the international president. I want to thank all those who work on behalf of IAEI and who volunteer their time to sit on boards and in committees, who help organize meetings, provide training and contribute to the betterment of the association. I consider IAEI to be the best professional organization in the electrical industry.

By the time you read this article, my term as president will be over. I feel sadness and regret to be leaving the board after twelve years, only because I will miss the people I have worked with and those whom I have met during my tenure. Thank you for giving me this opportunity.

Read more by David Clements

Tags:  Editorial  November-December 2007 

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Medium Voltage Seminar

Posted By Christel Hunter, Thursday, November 01, 2007
Updated: Saturday, February 09, 2013

The Southern Nevada Chapter of IAEI sponsored a Medium Voltage seminar on August 25, 2007. It was held at the Clark County Development Services Center and instruction was provided by Mike Johnston (IAEI) and Chuck Mello (UL). Mike and Chuck developed the course on behalf of the IAEI at the request of Rick Maddox, international third vice-president of the IAEI and building inspections supervisor with Clark County, Nevada. The seminar drew 84 attendees for the eight-hour class. The attendees were provided with copies of the seminar presentation and the new 2007 UL White Book, which was used during the presentation.

It is becoming more prevalent for private property owners to take ownership of the electrical systems farther upstream. This means that designers, installers and maintenance personnel must now deal with voltages above the normal 600-volt systems. With the increasing design and installation of medium voltage systems in commercial and high rise buildings, a need was identified for local plans checkers, engineers, electricians and inspectors to learn about safe installations and good practice when dealing with higher voltage electrical systems. The course covered the basics of medium and high voltage installations, basic design concepts, power generation and distribution, conductor types, conductor shielding, stress cones at termination points, splicing of conductors over 600 volts and wiring methods for over 600 volts. A live demonstration of medium voltage termination techniques was also provided courtesy of Apex Electrical Sales and Raychem.

Read more by Christel Hunter

Tags:  Featured  November-December 2007 

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Coalition to Promote Role of Code Enforcers

Posted By Gretchen P. Hesbacher, Thursday, November 01, 2007
Updated: Saturday, February 09, 2013

A national coalition will undertake the goal to educate the public, industry and elected officials about the critical role code officials play in improving the level of safety in the built environment. The Raise the Profile Coalition, committed to creating awareness about the important role code officials play in making everyday life safer, is made up of building safety professionals, trade associations, manufacturers, consumers and other stakeholders committed to improving public safety by raising awareness of code officials’ roles.

The coalition includes the American Association of Code Enforcement, Institute of Business and Home Safety, International Association of Electrical Inspectors, International Association of Fire Chiefs–Fire and Life Safety Section, International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials, International City/County Management Association, International Code Council and National Electrical Manufacturers Association.

Throughout the United States and around the world, people have sustained injuries, death, and economic loss because of unsafe buildings and systems. These losses are successfully minimized through the application of and ongoing enhancements to codes and standards (building, electrical, fire, HVAC, plumbing, property maintenance, zoning, environmental, and so forth) and a regulatory system to administer them.

The application of contemporary codes has dramatically improved the level of safety in buildings and their environs. To maintain and enhance the level of safety America has today, the Raise the Profile Coalition advocates continuing improvements.

Key to building safety is the code official who reviews plans, issues permits and inspects the work and property for code compliance. The public in many industrialized nations has an expectation of building safety that is taken for granted—a testament to the safety of buildings today, according to the coalition. However, lack of knowledge about why buildings are safe has resulted in little public awareness about the important role that code officials play in their everyday lives. This lack of awareness hinders public safety agencies from achieving higher levels of compliance, and even safer communities.

To change this situation and raise the profile of code officials, the signatory organizations have committed to a long-term effort that will focus on informing the public about the important role code officials play in making everyday life healthier, more comfortable, increasingly efficient, and safer.

Read more by Gretchen P. Hesbacher

Tags:  Featured  November-December 2007 

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At Risk Below the Minimum

Posted By Michael Johnston, Thursday, November 01, 2007
Updated: Saturday, February 09, 2013

he NEC contains the minimum requirements for electrical installations to ensure they are essentially free from hazards. Compliance with the NEC rules means meeting minimum safety requirements established by qualified technical committees that respond to compelling reasons (substantiation) that result in the minimum requirements. So why would any jurisdiction delete requirements that are already minimum requirements for safety? The NEC is the minimum, meaning we must do at least that much to ensure electrical safety.

Figure 1

This article provides a subtle message to jurisdictions that routinely adopt and enforce the NEC. History has proven that rules in the Code are born from evidence that clearly demonstrates a need to reduce risk of electrical fire and injuries to persons. The NEC development process is the most comprehensive in the world, and is one that includes everyone in an open consensus process. Everyone can participate. It is no wonder or surprise that the NEC is the most complete set of requirements. Following the rules in adopted codes and standards results in reduced fires, electrical injuries, and death.

This is a proven fact; the data speaks for itself.

New Requirements for Safety

Photo 1. GFCI protection is expanded to more areas in dwelling units and in other-than-dwelling units.

As new requirements emerge in the Code, there also lurks an undeniable uneasiness. There are groups that will lobby to reject adopting the latest edition of the NEC for reasons related to cost. As safety requirements change, so does the cost of doing business. Those who delay keeping up with the current requirements are taking risks. The NEC rules are developed to protect persons and property. If consumers were made aware of Code rules that would protect their families and property from fire risks and electric shock and electrocution hazards, their response undoubtedly would be in favor of such rules.

Figure 2. Section 406.11 requires tamper-resistant receptacles in dwelling units

The 2008 NEC development process is complete and three significant changes that improve safety for property and people have been added to the Code. The requirements for ground-fault circuit-interrupter protection have been expanded, arc-fault circuit-interrupter protection has been expanded, and tamper-resistant receptacles in areas specified by NEC 210.52 have resulted in shock protection for unsuspecting children [See NEC 210.8(A)(2) and (5), 210.12(B), and 406.11]. These three changes have the positive effects of improving safety in dwelling units, yet some groups are apparently opposed to these safety improvements. What does the consumer want? What does the consumer deserve? How significant is the additional cost? The appropriate and responsible responses to these questions are, the consumer deserves the benefit of the latest safety features in electrical systems and the cost is insignificant when compared to the benefit.

What About Operating Below the Minimum?


Photo 2. Arc-fault circuit-interrupter protection is expanded to most areas of dwelling units [see 210.12(B)

What is the risk of operating below the minimum requirements for safety? The biggest risk is right in the home—the risk to families and property. Property fires and electrical shock hazards are immeasurable risks. Risk management departments of any adopting jurisdiction can assist jurisdictions with answers to these questions. Step back from this article for a moment and ask yourself this question: If you could protect your home from electrical fire risks and protect your children from electric shock, would you do so, or would your reaction be, it is not worth the cost? If you were like most, the reaction would be in support of this protection, not against it. Yet there are apparently those who intend to lobby jurisdictions against adoption of minimum NEC requirements that provide such protection. What is wrong with this picture? Has society become so bold and so complacent that they have lost sight of what is really important? Perhaps yes, in some circles.


Why Is It Safe?

Once minimum requirements for safety are established, should they be allowed to be compromised? Let’s look at some safety requirements outside the electrical field to address this question. When minimum safety requirements for motor vehicles, such as seat belts and air bags, became requirements, did car manufacturers choose to build vehicles without them, just to save cost? The answer is no because these are minimum requirements for personnel safety. These are now mandated by the federal government, for safety. When laws are established by the federal government or states, can they be deleted because of additional cost? The answer is no, because these are the minimum requirements of the law. It is interesting to note that when safety belts and features for motor vehicles first were available as an option, many did not include them in their purchases.

Photo 3. Tamper-resistant receptacles (Courtesy of Pass and Seymour Legrand)

When they became mandatory, the public embraced them. When FDA laws are established that regulate the food and drugs, can producers of food and drugs choose to ignore these rules? This author thinks not. The world as we know it is a safer place because of minimum requirements such as these. This begs the question about the minimum requirements in the NEC and other codes. Should requirements related to safety of persons and property be compromised by deleting them? The answer is no, because these are the minimum safety requirements that have been established by technical experts through consensus. Deleting them from the Code is irresponsible and results in liability risks for contractors and jurisdictions as well as safety risks for persons and property. This type of action is usually not defendable by legal means. It is a risk to compromise minimum safety requirements established by technical experts in response to demonstrated needs to improve electrical safety.

Modifications to the NEC Requirements

There are circumstances and conditions that warrant modifications to the minimum requirements in the Code. However, these modifications are typically more restrictive than the minimum and justifiable by reasons other than cost. Usually jurisdictions have to modify the NEC because of conditions unique to geographical location or for other reasons. For example, in some areas of the country, ferrous metal is not suitable for burial in the earth because the soil has a severe corrosive effect on the metal, even when protected. This type of condition results in additional considerations of the minimum requirements in 300.6 and 250.52(A)(5)(b) where ¾ inch steel pipe that is not less than 8 ft long could be used as a grounding electrode. In these cases, the minimum requirements of the NEC need to be modified based on these special corrosion challenges. The point being made here is that in some cases, it is necessary for the minimum requirements in the Code to be modified or amended, but it is usually done to be more restrictive and for justifiable and defendable reasons.

Cost of Doing Business

When construction materials increase in cost, is the increase passed on to consumers? When construction materials decrease in cost, is the decrease passed on to consumers? When Code requirements change, such as structural, plumbing, mechanical, or electrical requirements, can buildings be constructed without incorporating these changes? The answer is yes, this can happen and it does, too often. Is this the right approach and one that is in the best interest of the usually unsuspecting consumer? The answer is no. Those organizations that are proficient and proactive in business know exactly how to stay current with the most recent requirements that ultimately affect consumers. They understand the risks. There are responsibilities that go hand-in-hand with doing business, and keeping up with current safety requirements is just one of those responsibilities. Passing along the cost to customers is one of the basics of business, yet some find this difficult, even when it means doing the right thing. It is all about doing the right thing for protection of consumers.

Economic Development

The competition among communities for new business is intense. Many states, cities, counties and so forth are competing for businesses to choose their jurisdiction. There are usually incentives offered to convince businesses of the benefits of locating to their jurisdiction. Some of the important considerations are never conveyed to these big businesses, such as how the jurisdiction adheres to the latest codes and standards when buildings are constructed. This obvious benefit to owners and a definite sales feature for economic development teams is rarely discussed. As economic development teams provide incentives for big businesses to locate in their areas, the methods by which a jurisdiction does business and provides safety for society should be one of their stronger sales features. Jurisdictions that adopt and comply with the latest codes and standards have an advantage, because they have the interests of the consumer first. Economic development groups expect that the latest safety requirements are included in the incentives they offer to attract businesses to build and develop their jurisdictions. Inspection jurisdictions can make the process painless by being proactive. Inspectors should meet with businesses early to establish strong relationships in the construction and development processes.


The NEC contains the minimum electrical safety rules. To ensure electrical installations that are essentially free from fire and shock hazards, one must do at least as much as is required by the NEC. Adopting and enforcing the requirements of any safety code is a difficult task and one that results in safety for persons and property. The NEC-2008 experienced additional GFCI requirements and AFCI requirements for increased protection of persons and property. New rules requiring tamper-resistant receptacles in dwelling units provide additional protection for children. These improvements in electrical safety in dwellings result from new rules that resulted from meaningful response of technical experts that demonstrated the needs for safety improvements. Efforts to circumvent these requirements are underway and should be carefully considered as jurisdictions move forward with their Code adoption processes. There are risks in operating below the established minimum electrical safety requirements. We read about these risks and learn about them every day, through unpleasant statistics. The minimum requirements for electrical safety are compromised when local modifications to those rules lessen them by deleting certain rules selectively. There needs to be justifiable reasons to lessen the requirements of an already established minimum. The consumer deserves responsible leadership that has their interests in the forefront, rather than special interests that are not safety driven.

Read more by Michael Johnston

Tags:  Featured  November-December 2007 

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