Thursday is May Day (I won't be taking the day off), and as folks in our line of work know, May is "National Electrical Safety Month" - a four-week educational effort that our affiliate, Electrical Safety Federation, International (EFSI) promotes nationwide. What, I ask, could be more like mom and apple pie than electrical safety? Well, apparently some people don't like mom or apple pie. And while they pay lip service to electrical safety, these folks are doing what they can to block technological advancements in home safety.
Here's some background: Arc-fault circuit interrupters (AFCIs) are an advanced technology that came on the market earlier this decade. Circuit breaker manufacturers like GE, Siemens, Square D, and Eaton spent over a decade developing the design and standards for these innovative products, which can detect and prevent arc faults that standard circuit breakers cannot. This is a good thing, considering that each year across the country, home electrical fires kill about 360 people, injure more than 1,000 and destroy close to $1 billion in property. In fact, the 2008 National Electrical Code (NEC®) expanded the requirement for AFCIs in homes. This position has been endorsed by an assortment of groups -- from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and the International Association of Electrical Inspectors, to the National Association of State Fire Marshals and even the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.
But the NEC isn't a federal mandate ... it's a code that gets revised every few years through a consensus process. States must then officially adopt it. Unfortunately, as state legislatures consider the 2008 NEC this spring, homebuilders are opposing the AFCI provision. In at least four midwestern states -- Nebraska, Ohio, Indiana, and Kentucky -- the opposition of homebuilders has postponed implementation of the new safety measures. NEMA's field representatives, along with other proponents, are scrambling to educate state lawmakers about the benefits and costs, and urging that the code be adopted. And EFSI has placed a video on the importance of AFCIs on its website.
With National Electrical Safety Month upon us, it's as good a time as any for state legislatures to get on the ball and promote a little home safety.