Lancaster, PA Electrician Directory

Find licensed electrical contractors in Lancaster County, PA for Residential, Commercial & Industrial projects here!

Homeowners need electricians to install new modern circuit breaker electrical service panels replacing antiquated fuse panels. You may need extra outlets installed in an older home that didn't have electrical receptacles installed in every corner of the home. Perhaps you're installing ceiling fans and need them wired to switch panels on the walls. Or, you want to add a hot tub to your backyard and need electrical service installed. You'll find electricians available for all of these services and more here on lancaster electrical .com.

Need an industrial or commercial electrician here in Lancaster County? Whether you need high bay lighting installed or a new three phase feed for that new high powered machine your adding commercial and industrial electricians have the skill set to make every installation and upgrade run smoothly.

 



Read the latest news for licensed electrical contractors in Lancaster County, PA.

California Utilities Planning Ahead for Wildfires
California Utilities Planning Ahead for Wildfires hfullmer Fri, 02/14/2020 - 10:30

California Utilities Planning Ahead for Wildfires

Sadly, combating wildfires has become as much a part of the fight against global warming as tapping into renewable power.

Utilities in California have become painfully familiar with this new reality.

On Feb. 7, the state’s utilities submitted their two-year plans to mitigate the impact of wildfires to the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC). The CPUC will hold workshops, take public input, review plans and ultimately approve or deny them by June of 2020.

The state’s three largest utilities submitted their plans. Although each serves different parts of the state with unique geographies, the risk of wildfires is a factor for all three.

PG&E has perhaps been hit hardest by wildfires in recent years. With billions of dollars of liability claims from several different fires, the company recently filed for bankruptcy and has been the topic of takeover discussions by state and local government officials.

The utility’s wildfire mitigation plan contains several approaches, including new grid technology, hardening of the electric system, accelerated inspections of electric infrastructure, enhanced vegetation management around power lines and real-time monitoring and situational awareness tools to better understand the impact of weather on its systems.

San Diego Gas and Electric has had its share of liability claims from wildfires. The utility’s plan includes measures that fall into three categories. Operations and engineering include measures to keep the electrical system safe. Situational awareness focuses on monitoring and understanding weather and the fire environment. Lastly, consumer outreach and education include communication and collaboration with customers.

The mitigation plan submitted by Southern California Edison includes infrastructure hardening, vegetation management, detailed inspections and remediations and situational awareness.

All three companies attempt to address the use of public safety power shutoffs (PSPS) and rely on them less as a wildfire mitigation measure. PG&E, in particular, faced strong public back lash to its PSPS in 2019.

In addition to the three large utilities, several small and multi-jurisdictional utilities and independent transmission owners also submitted mitigation plans to the CPUC.

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There’s Always More To Learn
There’s Always More To Learn aconstanza Fri, 02/14/2020 - 10:20

There’s Always More To Learn

I like to think of training as updating your KSAs—knowledge, skills and abilities. I learned about KSAs many years ago from the NJATC’s apprenticeship programs.

When the Fiber Optics Association was started 25 years ago, we analyzed the jobs done by fiber optic technicians and determined the KSAs needed by competent techs to set the standards for FOA fiber optic certification. Our training included classroom lessons and hands-on labs. The FOA’s Certified Fiber Optic Technician certification exam tested knowledge. We left it to instructors to judge students’ abilities and decide whether they were adequate to develop the level of skill needed to be a successful fiber optic tech.

Graduates that pass a certification exam are not experts. We like to point out that after certification, they are ready for on-the-job training. It takes work experience to develop basic knowledge and skills and become a competent tech. That’s right—practice makes perfect.

In a field such as fiber optics, where new technologies and products are being developed all the time, a tech needs to stay up to date. Fiber techs installing and terminating premises cables 25 years ago were gluing connectors on fiber ends and polishing them. A decade later, they were probably cleaving fiber and installing factory-terminated connectors with mechanical splices inside the connector. Today, they are probably using a fusion splicer to install splice-on connectors.

Outside plant techs splicing cables in the past were splicing individual fibers. Today they are probably fusion splicing ribbons of fiber in a fraction of the time, which is often necessary because many fiber optic cables have a lot more fibers in each cable.

Experienced techs are good at mastering new tools and techniques, and learning by doing is their preferred method. Give them a new tool and they can watch a video or two, read about it online, (maybe even read the manual), and then try it themselves. Usually, after a few attempts, it’s just a matter of spending time polishing their technique.

Sometimes, it helps to have a manufacturer’s field representative demonstrate the product or give a short lesson. Manufacturers usually have application customer service call centers that can talk users through problems. Conversations with applications engineers can also help pinpoint trouble spots or help improve techniques.

At FOA, we have even been experimenting with a “basic skills lab” online course. Generally, online courses are limited to learning the knowledge part of the KSAs, but given some online instruction, many techs can teach themselves how to use their own equipment or learn new techniques.

The first few times on a new job, you need training or someone to help you. Microtrenching and blowing cables or ribbon splicing are specialized enough and require expensive equipment, so taking a manufacturer’s course is a good investment. Often, companies will rent  out the equipment and send an experienced tech along to demonstrate how to use it for first jobs.

Besides learning new things, it can be valuable to take a refresher course on things you have not done for a while. If you have not used that fusion splicer, OTDR or cable certifier in the last few months, it’s a good idea to grab it off the shelf and spend some time relearning how it works before you take it into the field. It’s a lot more efficient doing this in your office, where you have access to manuals, your computer and other equipment, than trying to figure it out at a customer site. Besides, during this time, you can ensure it is working properly, has all the needed accessories and is fully charged.

Bookmark sites you might need for assistance on the job, such as where to download manuals, videos instructing use of equipment and contacts at manufacturers for applications assistance.

In my office at home, I have a bumper sticker that says, “If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.” Need I say more?

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Updating your fiber knowledge, skills and abilities

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DOE Invests $74M for Energy Performance Projects
DOE Invests $74M for Energy Performance Projects hfullmer Thu, 02/13/2020 - 11:44

DOE Invests $74M for Energy Performance Projects

The Energy Department this week announced it would invest $74 million in 63 projects conducted by national laboratories, universities and industry partners with the aim of improving the country’s buildings and electric grid’s energy performance.

“Many of the projects announced today will advance technologies to unlock deep energy savings through grid interactive efficient buildings and advanced building construction technologies and practices, without sacrificing the comfort of building occupants or the performance of labor-saving devices and equipment,” the agency wrote.

The projects are intended to advance the goals of DOE’s Buildings Energy Efficiency Frontiers & Innovation Technologies.

Some of the projects selected for award negotiations include:

  • General Electric Company, GE Research, Niskayuna, N.Y., will employ machine learning to advance adaptive cyber-physical resilience for building control systems.
     
  • Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Berkeley, Calif. will develop a compact, stand-alone thermal energy storage system using thermochemical salt hydrates for space heating in buildings.
     
  • University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Va., will develop bio-based, phase-change materials that are synthetically derived from squid ring teeth protein to produce a novel thermal energy storage material.
     
  • University of Maryland, College Park will create a solid-state energy storage composite phase change material and heat exchanger.
     
  • Auburn University, Auburn, Ala., will develop electrostatic-based water vapor separation systems for cooling in air conditioning systems.
     
  • University of Florida, Gainesville, Fla., will develop an efficient membrane-based ionic liquid absorption system for dehumidification and heating.
     
  • Lumileds, San Jose, Calif., will develop efficient green and yellow LEDs for solid-state lighting applications for forward voltage and power conversion for long-wavelength LEDs.
     
  • Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, N.Y., will develop an adaptive lighting control system by using augmented-reality and virtual-reality tools for lighting designers to render the placement of light.

You can read about more projects here.

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First-Line Supervisors Critical to Safety Success
First-Line Supervisors Critical to Safety Success hfullmer Thu, 02/13/2020 - 11:36

First-Line Supervisors Critical to Safety Success

While a comprehensive safety program involves all levels and departments in an organization, a new study published by Dodge Data & Analytics, “The Safety Management in Construction Industry SmartMarket Report,” finds that contractors consider job site supervisors and workers as the most essential aspects of world-class safety programs.

“Job site workers continue to be a critical part of safety programs, and new data show that construction firms rely on the leadership of their supervisors to improve safety,” stated a press release accompanying the report. 

The top four factors selected by contractors as being most important to an effective safety program are:

  1. Job site worker involvement (cited by 84% of respondents).
  2. Strong safety leadership abilities in supervisors (cited by 83%).
  3. Regular safety meetings with job site workers and supervisors (cited by 82%).
  4. Ongoing access to safety training for supervisors and job site workers (cited by 77%).

Dodge Data & Analytics noted that these four factors “rank far above other important factors” identified by respondents. Other factors included regular safety audits (67%), regular safety meetings among staff at the corporate level (62%) and having staff positions devoted to safety (61%).

The statement also added, “The percentage [of respondents] selecting the aspects involving supervisors also increased notably between 2017 and 2019, with increases spanning 7 to 10 percentage points.”

Companies rely heavily on their supervisors and foremen to deliver safety training to job site workers. Specifically, 73% of respondents selected this as their primary means to provide training, which was almost 50% more than those selecting the second most popular option—using an in-house trainer.

The report also noted the strong business results that emerge for contractors who have effective safety management programs. Specifically, 69% of respondents reported that it increases their ability to attract new work, and 57% reported that it improves their ability to retain staff, which, as noted by Dodge Data & Analytics, is “a critical factor in an increasingly tight labor market.”

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Pro Tips: Colors, Coins and Seals
Pro Tips: Colors, Coins and Seals aconstanza Wed, 02/12/2020 - 16:34

Pro Tips: Colors, Coins and Seals

First Place

Plugging in color

Have you ever tried to plug in something at a temporary power distribution center job site and forgot what cord goes to each power tool or other equipment? Depending on the length of the extension cord, it may be a long walk back to find out. I use colored tape to identify the plugs for various power equipment to make it simpler and quicker on the job. The trick is to remember what color goes with each tool. Labels would also work if you run out of colors or can’t remember what color is assigned to each tool.

--John Hemmings
Charleston, W. Va.


Coin toolsCoins

Coins are great tools in stabilizing toilets and no rust emerges when mopping around them. Also, coins work well as washers if you need extra and are in a pinch. You can drill or tap coins without causing much damage. Plus, you can find them nearly everywhere. The best thing is they never rust when they are wet, so they can be used for multiple jobs if needed.

--Louie Tammaro
Harriman, Tenn.


Sealant Sealing away

Are you tired of dealing with sticky bars of duct seal that really don’t stick or seal? Here’s a guaranteed unique way to seal off underground conduit raceways or guaranteed feeder raceways entering a building. I use a can of insulating foam sealant to spray the top of the raceway and let it set. It expands and seals the entire raceway and makes it completely airtight. It also prevents condensation and airflow while keeping dirt and other junk from falling into the raceway.

--JJ Waldner
Faulkton, S.D.


PRIZES FOR PRO TIPS

Share ideas that have saved you time or money on the job with readers of ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR. Your fellow electrical professionals would like to hear about them. Be sure to include a good photo of your idea if you can; hand-drawn sketches may be hard to interpret. Note that some similar ideas are sometimes submitted by more than one person. In these cases, the one that is more clearly written and includes a photo is given precedence. 

Each published author in Pro Tips receives a $50 Lowe’s gift card. In addition, the first-place winner will receive a $100 Lowe’s gift card. 

Use the online submission tool at www.ecmag.com/protips to send your tip and photo, or email it to protips@necanet.org or send a letter and photo to Pro Tips Editor, ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR, 3 Bethesda Metro Center, Suite 1100, Bethesda, MD 20814-5372.

DISCLAIMER: The ideas presented in this article are for consideration only. Neither ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR nor Lowe’s, Inc. assumes any liability from your use of these or any other ideas. 

 

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Recruit Rising Stars: What can we learn from college sports recruiting?
Recruit Rising Stars: What can we learn from college sports recruiting? hsauer Wed, 02/12/2020 - 14:45

Recruit Rising Stars: What can we learn from college sports recruiting?

The difficulty electrical contractors face every time they attempt to find and attract talented new people dates back further than the oldest tool in their warehouse. It’s always been that way, in good times or bad.

Since the business world thrives on sports analogies, why not look to that world for some fresh thinking on ways to attract new players to the electrical contracting game?

With that idea in mind, we took a brisk stroll across the Virginia Tech campus from Andrew’s office in the Department of Building Construction to drop in on Michael Brizendine, head coach of the men’s soccer team. For an abundance of reasons, soccer seemed to us to hold the best source of transferable ideas.

Brizendine has been at the university for more than 10 years. He has led the men’s soccer program through the ups and downs of many seasons that might readily remind electrical contractors of the construction industry’s cyclical nature. Displaying his famously personable style, he welcomed our questions aimed at garnering takeaways for ECs to use in recruiting efforts.

When we talk to electrical contractors about increasing their service and maintenance operations, they are always quick to point out how growing their business calls for recruiting talented individuals who are capable of consistently creating a winning customer experience.

Do you see a parallel between the way you recruit soccer players and the way contractors might recruit new employees?

Absolutely. In both cases, you’re trying to get the best person you can possibly get—for the right price. In our situation, the price is a college scholarship.

Electrical contractors often start their recruitment process by sifting through a stack of prospective candidates’ resumes. Where do you begin your process?

We start by watching players on the field during games, wherever they happen to be, to identify the best ones. That’s the first step, and it’s the easy part. The second step is checking their academic records. We want to be sure that they can succeed in the classroom and the playing field. The third step, and to us the most important, is we take a hard look at every bit of evidence of their personal character.

Just as contractors order background checks and seek personal references on their candidates, what do you do?

We place a high value on this phase of the process. We have developed a reliable network of coaches in other places whose assessments we know we can trust. We want to be absolutely certain that a player will fit into our culture. Culture will make or break a team. It’s a top concern for us.

How do face-to-face interviews fit into your evaluation of candidates?

We interview players, but we go even further. We have them visit campus for two days. Someone can fool you in a single interview. But they can’t fool you for two days straight. In this regard, I rely on our current team members for input. I trust their observations. Once again, it’s all about culture.

How do you predict that candidates will remain at Tech and continue with the team for four years through to graduation?

That’s a big challenge. The rate of collegiate athletes transferring from one college to another is higher than it’s ever been. This just means that, as a coach, you have to continue to “recruit” players, so to speak, to retain them.

Is there any piece of advice about recruiting star players that you would especially like to pass on to our electrical contractor readers?

You have to spend time and money up front. For example, we sometimes fly overseas to watch players in action on their own team’s playing field. From time to time, we fly them in to visit here. All those airline tickets are expensive. It’s a big investment. But it pays off. So, my best advice is to make that up-front investment.

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Making the Code at Home
Making the Code at Home hsauer Wed, 02/12/2020 - 14:39

Making the Code at Home

Even though the 2020 National Electrical Code was just issued in September 2019 and many states will not adopt the new Code until this year, electrical contractors should be aware of the major changes that will affect most residential services. Some changes in Article 230 came about based on input from first responders who may need to disconnect power to the home without waiting for the electrical utility company to pull the meter or disconnect power at the utility pole.

A new Section 230.85 was added to require one- and two-family dwelling units to have all service conductors terminate in disconnecting means by having a short-­circuit current rating equal to or greater than the available fault current, which has always been required. It also requires installation in a readily accessible outdoor location, which is new. If more than one disconnect means is provided, the disconnects must be grouped together as required by 230.72.

The new requirement is that each disconnecting means has one of the following three markings on it: 

  1. Emergency Disconnect, Service Disconnect
  2. Meter disconnects installed in accordance with 230.82(3) shall be marked as “Emergency Disconnect, Meter Disconnect, Not Service Equipment”
  3. Other listed disconnect switches or circuit breakers on the supply side of each service disconnect that are suitable for use as service equipment shall be marked “Emergency Disconnect, Not Service Equipment.”

All marking for these emergency disconnecting means are required to comply with 110.21(B).

New subsection 230.82(10) has been added to cover the “emergency disconnecting means” installed on the supply side of the service disconnecting means. This text states that emergency disconnects installed in accordance with 230.85 are permitted to be installed on the supply side of the service disconnecting means, if all the metal housings and service enclosures are grounded in accordance with Part VII in Article 250 and bonded in accordance with Part V of Article 250.

There may be some confusion in the electrical industry with using the phrase “emergency disconnecting means” as it relates to these one- and two-family disconnecting means, since Article 700 applies to emergency systems and would not apply to these particular installations. Renaming these disconnecting means in the next Code cycle as “First Responder Disconnecting Means” or a similar name may be a solution. In addition, 230.82(3) already covers meter disconnecting means, including the requirements for compliance with parts V and VII of Article 250 and the short-circuit current ratings to be equal to or greater than the available fault current.

The reason for the meter disconnecting means in 230.82(3) and now in 230.82(10) is to provide the utility company with a disconnecting means to turn the power off when pulling or installing the meter in the can. In many cases, the utility companies lock these disconnecting means to ensure no one can tamper with the meters. It appears that Code-Making Panel-10 now recognizes the meter disconnect to be an emergency disconnect that can be located outside but may not be the service-main disconnecting means. If the meter disconnect is an emergency disconnecting means, is the main disconnecting means then permitted to be inside the home where compliance with 250.24(A)(5) may become an issue?

Many large electrical services supplying single-family dwellings are located in electrical service rooms within the home and will require a large disconnecting means to be installed outside. In regions where snow and inclement weather is normal during winter, locating the service main inside the building is common and will now require a main disconnecting means outside with all panelboards inside in compliance with 250.24(A)(5) with the neutral isolated from the equipment grounding system. Service changes on older homes will now require a main disconnecting means to be located outside, unless it is permitted outside with the main located inside the home.

A new Section 230.67 requiring surge protection for dwelling units has also been added. This surge protective device (SPD) must be an integral part of the service equipment or be located immediately adjacent to it. An exception has been added that permits the SPD to be located at the next level distribution downstream toward the load. Where service equipment is replaced for existing homes, surge protective equipment must be installed.

Some of these new requirements already may have been implemented in your area by local jurisdiction amendments to the NEC or may be a common practice already due to the local year-round weather conditions.

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This Moment in Time
This Moment in Time hsauer Wed, 02/12/2020 - 14:31

This Moment in Time

During a “PQ Primer” seminar I recently presented, we discussed how photovoltaic inverters synthesize the fundamental power frequency when there is no voltage reference from the grid. For years, time was told by counting the zero crossings of the 60 Hertz (Hz) waveform. The grid’s massive rotating generators’ inertia kept a fairly constant time. Operators would have to occasionally change the generators’ frequency in response to when they were altered by large load swings to get time back on track. But 60 Hz was a generally reliable basis for keeping time.

Plenty of equipment used this signal to synchronize processes, though they may use dividers or multipliers for values other than
60 Hz. When distortion or transients caused multiple zero crossings of the signal, things could run fast if proper filtering techniques weren’t used. When equipment was turned on, the actual time needed to be re-entered in the system, which can be inaccurate. Battery-backed real-time clock (RTC) integrated circuits then became the source of time, even when the equipment was turned off. In particular, a 32.768 kHz crystal was used in an oscillator circuit for an RTC, which typically had an accuracy of 2 seconds a week, depending on temperature.

Power quality monitors were among the equipment using the power-line frequency and the RTC for back-up time. As the requirements to correlate disturbances and steady-state data over fixed intervals across a larger geographic area to be consistent between multiple units, other means to synchronize the time became necessary. Utility substations often had IRIG-B time sources. Once local and through the internet equipment networking became common, a technique called network time protocol (NTP) was the method used where possible. This brought the accuracy for the synchronization of clocks between multiple units down to one cycle or better. But the latency from the propagation delay between the time source and the end-user had to be considered for system-wide accuracy over a wide geographic area to hold.

Over time, this accuracy was not enough for some systems, especially as a new tool was being deployed across substations. The synchrophasor or phasor measurement unit went from a research project to thousands deployed in the past decade. These instruments need the time stamps across the system to be within 1 microsecond. Phasors are a vectoral representation of the magnitude of a sinusoidal signal (such as the voltage) and the phase angle relationship between the phases (typically 120 degrees in our 3-phase power grid). The phasors rotate 60 times a cycle, but they can vary that rate during system disturbances. In fact, changes in the phasor data are often seen tens of minutes before large-scale system instability that can end up in a cascading blackout. Since the rate of change of phase is frequency, monitoring frequency can give a warning a minute or less before it is seen in the voltage magnitude. By the time the root mean square voltage is changing, things are generally going downhill rapidly without quick intervention.

A search in YouTube for “Florida 2008 Blackout” turns up a presentation showing an amazing graphical display of the changing phase angles across the entire Eastern United States due to the blackout in Miami.

A GPS time source from satellites is used to get this high-accuracy time values in geographically dispersed locations. Typically, three GPS satellites are needed to ensure accuracy. The clocks in the satellites are accurate to 3 nanoseconds. The systems need to compensate for propagation delays based on the distance from the satellites, but it is constant and much more predictable compared to NTP because of the signals’ fixed route.

PQ instruments that are Class A compliant with IEC 61000-4-30 and tested using IEC 62586-2 methodologies are required to have an accuracy of 1 cycle or better “regardless of the total time interval.” Most instruments today use GPS to synchronize their clocks; however, the standard allows for “a synchronization procedure applied periodically during a measurement campaign, through a GPS receiver, reception of transmitted radio timing signals or by using network timing signals.” In addition, the 10-minute intervals used to aggregate data must have those precise time stamps. Since the power frequency can deviate during that time window, it is not an exact number of power frequency cycles. For example, if perfect, 60 cycles/second × 60 sec/min × 10 min intervals = 36,000 cycles. But if frequency is 59.995 Hz over the interval, there will be three fewer cycles in that 10-minute interval. The instruments need to adjust for this by adding or subtracting cycles as needed.

System-based PQ monitors need to know the time precisely across the entire system to correlate data and disturbance events to determine the cause and source and help prevent re-occurrences.

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In Times Past
In Times Past hsauer Wed, 02/12/2020 - 14:20

In Times Past

The winter of 1975 was pivotal for the electrical industry. Two major fires within a month reminded the industry of how fires in combustible cable insulation can have catastrophic results. Neither of the fires occurred in an installation governed by the National Electrical Code, but both called attention to need for better cable insulation. The fires resulted in significant property damage and the loss of critical facilities.

New York Telephone

With more than 8 million people, New York is the most populous U.S. city and the financial capital. Something that affects Manhattan can have an impact well beyond New York.

In 1975, we were all connected by landline telephones. Cellular and PCS technology did not exist. Manhattan’s only phone provider was New York Telephone, then a unit of AT&T. The NYTel exchange building at the corner of Second Avenue and 13th Street housed 12 telephone exchanges and toll­switching machines. Original construction was completed in 1923. By 1930, another eight stories had been added to the building.

This building’s exchanges served a 300-block area of lower Manhattan, and the exchange rooms were connected to the outside world with PVC-insulated cables. The telephone switches were electromechanical panel and Crossbar.

The fire began as an electrical fault in a subbasement cable vault. A local fire alarm signal was sounded at 12:15 a.m., when smoke was discovered on the third floor. Fifteen employees were working in the building at the time. A maintenance person on duty attempted to call the fire department, but the fire was already affecting the telephone service. The maintenance person used an outside callbox to contact the fire department at 12:25 a.m.

The first units reported heavy smoke in the building. The five-alarm fire, which burned for 19 hours, involved approximately 700 firefighters. A number of people were evaluated and treated for smoke inhalation.

The fire disrupted telephone service for more than 170,000 subscribers. It affected phone service for several police stations, hospitals, some universities and numerous business and residential customers. Telephone exchange update projects all over the United States were affected because equipment was diverted from scheduled upgrades to the emergency restoration in New York.

The epic restoration process took 4,000 workers 23 days. Since NYTel was part of AT&T, and included Western Electric and Bell Laboratories, the company was able to tap many corporate assets, including starting production of equipment and rescheduling deliveries. Crews also cleaned some of the electromechanical switches so they could be returned to service. This remains the worst fire loss in the history of U.S. telephone service even 45 years later because of the improvements that have taken place since then.

After telephone service was fully restored on March 21, 1975, another major cable fire happened the next day.

Brown’s Ferry nuclear plant

The Brown’s Ferry Nuclear Power Plant was the pride of the Tennessee Valley Authority. When completed, the plant would consist  of three 1,100-megawatt boiling water reactors. Construction of the first two units began in 1967, and the third unit began in 1968. Unit 1 went online on Aug. 1, 1974. Unit 2 went online on March 1, 1975.

The facility, in Athens, Ala., was designed so that positive pressure was maintained between an area that consisted of the control room, the cable-spreading room and the reactor building. The cable-spreading room connected to tunnels where cables were run to the two reactors. Positive pressure would serve to prevent air from the reactor building that could contain radiation from entering the control room.

Positive pressure could only be maintained if all penetrations between the cable-spreading room and the reactor building were sealed. Cables were sealed at the firewall with a poured-in polyurethane insulation. Other material was used to function as a dam for the poured-in insulating material, including polystyrene and sprayable forms of polyurethane. The insulation surfaces at the wall were covered with a fire-retardant coating.

When additional cables were run through the polyurethane seal, a wooden pole, such as a broom handle, was used to punch holes through the polyurethane. These additional holes needed to be sealed to maintain the positive pressure toward the reactors. For small leaks, a seal made of a silicone-rubber material was made. Larger holes were also sealed with polyurethane plugs, and there was no standard method to detect leaks. The methods used included smoke sources, soapy solutions and candles. Checking for leaks was routine maintenance.

On March 22, 1975, units 1 and 2 were operating normally, and the third unit was still under construction. Workers were testing for leaks between the two areas using a lit candle. A strong air flow caused the flame to be drawn into the seal, which ignited the combustible polyurethane foam. The resulting fire spread to cable trays, and the fire made it difficult to control some systems. The damage caused loss of some instrumentation and control of critical systems, including pumps needed to cool the reactor. The turbo generators were taken offline and both reactors were scrammed (shut down).

Several dry chemical portable extinguishers and a fixed carbon-dioxide extinguishing system were used to fight the fire, but it burned for about nine hours. Toward the end of the fire, water was used to extinguish it. The fire damaged 1,611 cables, 117 conduits and 26 cable trays. There was significant damage to the cable-spreading room and to the Unit 1 reactor building. Seven TVA employees were treated from smoke inhalation. At the time of the fire, Unit 1 had been operating for less than a year, and Unit 2 had been operating for less than a month.

NEC scope

Both of these fires occurred in utility installations. Telephone exchanges and power plants are outside the scope of the NEC. However, private telephone systems installed in commercial buildings may not be utility installations. There are also privately owned generating facilities at many industrial facilities. The lessons learned from these two fires also apply to areas governed by the NEC.

Telephone systems have changed dramatically in the 45 years since the NYTel fire, and the amount of wiring distributed in buildings has also greatly increased.

These fires spread quickly and caused considerable damage. The fires were able to propagate because of combustible insulation and inadequate sealing of fire walls openings with combustible insulation. Both fires caused significant financial losses because of  direct damage and something that the insurance industry calls “business interruption.” NYTel was able to reduce downtime by redeploying thousands of employees.

Another risk of a major fire to a critical facility can be the public relations impact.

Both fires drew the attention of the electrical industry, particularly testing laboratories, cable companies, insurance companies and an IEEE committee. Cable fires could result in direct damage, business interruption and smoke inhalation, which is a major concern for first responders.

Insurance companies have long required sprinkler protection for cable trays for critical systems as well as for sealing wall penetrations. Many industrial users have been reluctant to provide water-based extinguishing systems for cables or other electrical equipment. The cable companies started working with manufacturers on fire-retardant cable insulation. The industry sought insulation that was fire-retardant, low smoke producing and low toxicity. Primarily, the cables must have good electrical­-insulation characteristics.

UL developed testing methods it uses for the cable evaluation. Methods include Bunsen burner tests of individual conductor samples. Vertical flame tests are used to evaluate cables that will be installed in riser applications. The riser tests use a ribbon burner with 70,000 Btu/hour output as the ignition source and a specific arrangement of the cables in a vertical cable tray. The most stringent test that UL uses is the Steiner Tunnel Test for qualifying cables used in plenum applications.

In the 1987 edition of the NEC, requirements began to appear for different types of listed fire-resistive cables. Cable types were created for different applications and specific listing requirements depend on where the cables were to be installed. A cable’s physical orientation, the airflow over the cable and its orientation relative to other cables affect how it reacts to an ignition source.

The specific applications are plenums, risers, general use and dwelling applications. These requirements are now found in articles 725, 760, 770, 800, 805, 820, 830 and 840. Substitution tables and charts in each of these articles permit some usage of cables in different applications where the cables have the same fire characteristics.

More things are connected today than at any time in history. The lessons learned from these fires reshaped the electrical industry with this major effort to prevent a reoccurrence.

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Browns Ferry Nuclear Power Plant, Athens, Ala.

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You've Got a Friend: Finding partnership with the facility manager
You've Got a Friend: Finding partnership with the facility manager hsauer Wed, 02/12/2020 - 14:10

You've Got a Friend: Finding partnership with the facility manager

A seat at the table isn’t assured when integrated design is more idea than practice. Certainly, an electrical contractor’s presence can help to facilitate project goals early in a project design. Partnering with the facility manager (FM) could add that practical voice offering a ground-level viewpoint to ensure project success. In fact, the facility manager could be the EC’s new best friend to ensure electrical and power goals work for the space or entire building.

There have always been informal relationships between the EC and FM. The facility manager may even have a go-to contractor. Inviting the facility manager into the planning stages of a retrofit can pay off, especially when you have high-performance objectives such as rigorous energy or water efficiency, overall sustainably, resiliency or occupant health goals. You advocate for them and they advocate for you.

“We really feel bringing the facility manager to the design table is a no-brainer,” said Gordon Rogers, who serves as program director within Kitchell’s Capital Expenditure Managers Inc., Phoenix. Kitchell is an employee-owned construction management firm that provides engineering, architecture and other services including facilities management.

“The facility manager knows their own capability and their staff, how the building operates or with a new design attuned to high performance, health, safety and so on,” Rogers said. “I think they could be a real partner for ECs to seek out and bring to the table. For instance, the facility manager knows switchgear needs and sees how the building can adapt to smart HVAC or lighting design. The facility manager will catch when equipment is being ill-placed in a design, so you don’t have to open a ceiling to get to and maintain equipment. We will bring our facility manager to design reviews if the client doesn’t have one to offer an operations and maintenance perspective.”

“In building design, there is still a traditional mindset with people working in silo when it comes to design and operation,” said Jeffrey Johnson, executive director of government affairs at the International Facility Management Association, Houston. The IFMA serves more than 23,000 members in more than 100 countries.

“People are not seeing a clear connect between them. With building performance now integral to design, we are seeing a shift where the facility manager is being consulted. We always felt the person who runs the buildings [the FM] must be involved in the design and planning process. It’s a welcome change at the end of the day having an facility manager providing practical-minded solutions,” he said.

Rogers shared findings of an informal three-year study conducted by Kitchell that looked at a building manager’s involvement early in design and the financial impact.

“We estimate FMs getting involved sooner during the design phase of [a] project can result in a 3-to-1 investment advantage [and] avoiding costly rework when designs aren’t practical to the operation of the building,” Rogers said.

IFMA has historically been a resource to the building industry. It is a member of the High-Performance Building Coalition, a collection of some 200 organizations that provide guidance and support the House of Representatives High Performance Building Caucus. The legislation and policies promote, in part, innovative building technologies, energy and water efficiency, sustainable and resilient communities, and private-sector standards, codes and guidelines that address these concerns.

IFMA’s certification programs, including its Certified Facility Manager and Sustainability Facility Professional, are worth noting when seeking out credentialed facility managers. Beyond IFMA, the BIT Building program and credential provides best practices for real estate and facility managers pursuing high-performance building operation. BIT is managed by the Southface Energy Institute in Atlanta.

Advice that works both ways

Laurie Gilmer is vice president and chief operating officer at Facility Engineering Associates P.C., Fairfax, Va. The firm provides support to owners and managers of existing facilities, including facility managers, with a goal of maximizing the life of a building. To Gilmer, the value of partnership between the EC and facility manager is clear.

“The electrical contractor can advise the facility manager who may be charged with making sure a building meets ambitious energy efficiency or other goals,” Gilmer said. “Meanwhile, the facility manager gathers all the data for what needs to be done to the physical environment. Questions might arise: such as do I need to increase my service size or add a panel. The EC can confirm or remediate the design to get to the desired results. I see partnership working well between the facility manager and the EC.”

Gilmer does see instances of the facility manager being brought into a building redesign team, notably in bigger organizations. That relationship between the EC and the facility manager can jump-start an integrated team outlook.

Rogers concurs and has seen this partnership happen with FMs who recommend established contractors that they have successfully worked with in the past.

“We visited a client preparing for a large project,” Rogers said. “Working with our engineers, we gave them some ideas for electrical and HVAC. The client then sought out their electrical contractors and MEPs who liked the design and the project proceeded. This was one example of a partnership between the EC, the facility manager and us.”

Avoiding problems

In her FEA role, Gilmer has seen her share of building design mistakes that could have been avoided with guidance from the FM.

“Facility managers are charged with not just maintenance but performance of the building. That could include the look and feel of the space or power needs, including appropriate lighting be it an office, retail space or other use,” she said. “It’s important to recognize how jobs function in the space. Without an FM’s input, problems can arise in design. Maybe lighting isn’t located in a way that makes for easy maintenance. There are a lot of horror stories in that regard.”

Gilmer cited a lighting design that used beautiful, suspended lighting fixtures to grace the elevator bank of a three-story retail space. Unfortunately, this made accessing to the fixtures very difficult because they were placed so high. The designer’s suggested solution was building scaffolding to reach the lights when maintenance was needed.

“The facility manager could have pointed out this problem in the design discussion stage, if he was brought to the table,” Gilmer said. “A facility manager doesn’t want to build scaffolding or take a scissor lift to maintain lighting. It’s time-intensive and disruptive. Also, while an LED fixture might have a professed 20-year life, usage and dirt can promote failure long before 20 years. Use a facility manager to spot the practical things and advise in the design before definite design commitments are made. Good design must factor in more than just how everything will look.”

Gilmer shared that the facility manager knows how the existing space is used or will be in a remodel. They know where quiet rooms in an office space should be placed so they are not located next to elevators, high-traffic areas or other loud areas. They know the best spot for collaborative areas. The facility manager knows what lighting quality is needed and how lights should be programmed based on room use.

“In a rather funny case, occupancy sensors were installed throughout the office to manage lighting, but their placement also continuously triggered touchless Purell dispensers in a conference room,” Gilmer said.

A partner in digitization

The growth in technology and the digitization of building operations such as where LED lighting can serve as a conduit to an internet of things architecture, or simply provide smarter building control with an array of sensors—is fusing in a new skill set or familiarization.

“In the private sector, I see a lot of interest in digitizing building operation,” Rogers said. “FMs and other building managers are experimenting and trying technology to see if it works in a particular space. If it does, they may roll it out to other buildings. We’ve seen this with lighting systems that include motion sensors and smart LED lighting that can read and control building operation. We are seeing a lot of interest in creating a green building footprint.”

Rogers added that FMs are also being exposed to building designs that make occupants health a priority. That might include working with daylighting and circadian lighting packages.

“Having the resources to get up to speed on the latest and greatest building operation technologies is important to the FM,” he said.

And though digitized building operation can seem formidable, Johnson says FMs should embrace the challenge.

Such new building operational complexity is yet another opportunity for an EC and FM partnership.

“The EC is very often involved in the implementation of systems and putting the infrastructure and electrical systems in place,” Gilmer said. “Here is an opportunity for the EC to be that service contractor to make sure what’s installed runs well for the FM. You are building a relationship, too.”

What the facility manager community is working to achieve in representation during the early phases of building design parallels similar efforts by ECs. Another commonality is an aging workforce and a challenge to attracting new talent.

“We need more facility managers,” Johnson said. “A lot of people in the profession are retiring. It continues to be a struggle.”

In total, Rogers says the facility manager is an invaluable knowledge source waiting to be tapped.

“The EC and the facility manager can be good advocates for each other,” he said. “There are a lot of connector points where the two can advise and work together.”

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