From the Trenches: Strong Codes Save Lives

From the Trenches: Strong Codes Save Lives

This piece was originally published in the October 2017 issue of electroindustry.

NEMA’s Task Force on State Code Adoptions asked individuals who have been involved in the timely adoption of national codes to share their views on the fifth anniversary of NEMA’s Strategic Initiative to preserve the three-year code adoption cycle. This is what they had to say.

Deana Dennis, Senior Manager of Government and External Relations, EPRI (formerly with NEMA)
Largely a grassroots advocacy effort, this initiative got the NEMA membership engaged in ways they had never been before. It was rewarding to see technical company representatives discuss the importance of public safety and technological innovation in the built environment with legislators and code councilmen. It got them thinking in a way they hadn’t previously.

Tom Domitrovich, Vice President of Technical Sales, Eaton
We are in the trenches with industry partners who support what is good for our industry. While an individual company may not be able to engage in code adoption, NEMA has the legal and government relations resources to navigate the unique waters of code adoption. This is a value proposition to NEMA Members, giving them a voice at industry meetings.

Christopher Hess, Director of Public Affairs, Eaton
Promoting the adoption of the most current electrical codes may be the most important activity NEMA organizes on behalf of the electrical industry. Since state and local governments look to NEMA as a trusted adviser, it is critical that the association continue to advocate for common-sense codes that promote safety and sustainability through the use of improved technologies.

Bryan Holland, South Field Representative, NEMA
The success of the Strategic Initiative is a result of effective teamwork between the NEMA Members, NEMA staff, and industry partners. No one strategy, tactic, or action plan is a “fit-all” for every state or every situation. Through teamwork, we have been able to successfully navigate difficult challenges but also capitalize on positive opportunities.

Meghan Housewright, Associate General Counsel, NFPA
As a member of the CCSC, NEMA has impressively defended the timely adoption of codes and standards. This work reduces instances of fire and injury, particularly in homes. The responsiveness of NEMA Members and staff—testifying at legislative hearings, leading stakeholder coordination efforts, writing letters in support of the codes—has educated policymakers and brought attention to the issue.

Don Iverson, Midwest Field Representative, NEMA
The extended adoption cycle first showed up in Michigan. I remember saying that if our opponents were successful, it would show up in other states also. Unfortunately, the opponents were successful for one- and two-family dwellings. However, we were able to keep the commercial code on a three-year cycle. The Strategic Initiative has demonstrated that time and resources were well spent.

Michael Jouaneh, Manager of Sustainability and Energy Standards, Lutron Electronics Company, Inc.
It is difficult to track building code adoption for every state since each handles its own adoption. Also, some jurisdictions within a state have separate processes. While many NEMA Members participate in code development on national model codes or standards such as the IECC or ASHRAE 90.1, it doesn’t help if states don’t adopt the codes. NEMA Members make many of the solutions that meet requirements in the codes to improve energy efficiency and safety in buildings.

Tim McClintock, Regional Electrical Code Specialist, NFPA
Working with industry allies to support timely adoption of the NEC preserves minimum safety requirements and keeps pace with advancements in new and evolving technologies. This collaborative effort provides a platform for a broad cross-section of industry stakeholders at national and local levels to provide a unified voice for the timely and unamended adoption of the NEC.

Edward M. Orlet, Senior Vice President of Membership and Marketing, NAED
The recent devastation from Hurricanes Harvey and Irma brings into sharp focus why strong codes matter. Strong codes save lives. Product technology is evolving rapidly. It is important that policymakers understand how easily codes can become dated sooner than they realize.

Tom Phillips, Senior Director of Government Affairs, Siemens Industry
Clearly, progress has been made that would have not occurred if NEMA leadership had not been involved. We believe that protecting the established three-year code cycle is vital to the advancement of fire life safety, electrical safety, and the safety of first responders. An individual could not have the impact that NEMA is having. There is strength in NEMA membership and professional management.

Ken Rempe, Manager of Industry Standards, Siemens Industry
This is a critical activity within NEMA. This effort focuses on adopting the latest installation and construction codes that protect families and their homes from the devastation of electrical fires and significant weather events such as hurricanes. As an electrical manufacturer, the safety of our customers is always a top priority. To the diverse group of individuals and companies involved, safety outweighs the cost of safety products.

Jeff Sargent, Senior Electrical Specialist, NFPA
NEMA’s collaboration with IAEI, IEC, IBEW, ICC, NECA, NFPA, UL, and other allies has been instrumental when special interests exerted considerable financial and political capital to extend the timeframe for adopting the NEC. Preserving the adoption cycle is solid public safety policy, promotes the implementation of new technologies like energy storage and direct-current microgrids, and expands applications of existing technologies such as solar photovoltaics and electric vehicle supply.

Robert Simon, Vice President of Product Marketing, Hubbell
In a world where the speed of change is continually increasing, state legislative and builder communities should be conscious of the need for model code adoption that matches the pace of change. Extending adoption beyond three years could mean that newer equipment, including lighting controls, fuel cells, and battery technology, is installed without the benefit of referencing applicable codes.

Mike Stone, West Field Representative, NEMA
The pace of change in the electroindustry is unprecedented. New technology is the strongest argument for adopting the most current codes, especially the NEC. The sentiment among some local building officials to delay or extend the adoption of codes comes down to what it costs in time and money to adopt new codes, purchase the code books, and train staff. This ignores the public value of adopting codes that address the safe installation of new technologies.

Sara Yerkes, Senior Vice President of Government Relations, International Code Council, and Co-Chair of the Coalition for Current Safety Codes
NEMA’s support in the 2011 Michigan battle, the first of its kind in the U.S., was the impetus for establishing the Coalition for Current Safety Codes. Staying current on building and safety requirements saves money for communities, building managers, and homeowners by facilitating lower insurance and mitigation costs, utility savings, overall building safety and longevity, and disaster prevention.

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