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Why We Choose to Get Involved in the Creation of Cable Standards

Gerald Dorna

No matter what type of cabling project you face, cable standards are there to guide you through the process. From defining maximum cable temperature limits to guidelines on providing power and data over a single cable, these standards ensure uniformity, performance, compatibility and safety.

Have you ever thought about the people and process behind these cable standards? For example: Those who serve on the National Electrical Code (NEC) panels of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) to develop codes to protect people and property from the hazards that arise from the use of electricity?


Sponsored by the NFPA, the NEC is updated every three years by 18 different code-making panels (CMPs) made up of manufacturers, inspectors, users, installers, laborers, testing lab specialists and other experts.


A few Belden team members – including me – choose to be involved in NFPA’s code-making process. We volunteer our time on the NFPA 70 panels.


There are a few reasons why we participate:

  • It helps build alliances with industry colleagues. We get to meet and know new professionals, hear different perspectives and discuss upcoming challenges.
  • It provides us with firsthand knowledge of proposed changes – along with the chance to share feedback. If we disagree with a proposed addition, change or deletion, for example, we can share our justifications for others to consider.
  • It helps us prepare for new and updated cabling or cable requirements. 

Serving on the National Electrical Code’s CMP-16 panel since 1995 as a representative of the Insulated Cable Engineers Association (ICEA), the purview of this panel includes NEC Articles 770, 800, 805, 810, 820, 830 and 840.


We’re responsible for specifying the use of communications cables; fiber optic cables; CATV cables; network-powered broadband cables; premises-powered broadband cables; Class 1, 2 and 3 remote-control, signaling and power-limited cables; fire alarm cables; instrumentation tray cables and data cables in the National Electrical Code.


Another Belden colleague involved in standards development is LAN Technology and Applications Manager Ron Tellas (who’s also a frequent Belden blog author!). Just this year, he became a member of NEC CMP-3 as a representative of the Communications Cable & Connectivity Association (CCCA). This involvement puts him closer to the decision-making process in the NEC for the practical safeguarding of people and property against the hazards that arise from using cables designed for Power over Ethernet (PoE).


Why It’s Important to Be Involved

Here’s a good example of how – and why – being involved with the development of cable standards can make a difference.


Currently, NEC Chapter 8 deals with communications cables (it contains Articles 800 through 840). It’s an independent chapter within the NEC, giving the industry better control over how, when and what changes need to be made to the NEC.


NEC CMP-1 covers Article 90, which states: “Chapter 8 covers communications systems and is not subject to the requirements of Chapters 1 through 7 except where the requirements are specifically referenced in Chapter 8.”


During the last code cycle, there was committee discussion in CMP-1 about removing this exemption statement for Chapter 8 from Article 90. On the surface, it may have seemed like a good decision. To those in the cabling industry, however, it would have been detrimental.


In typical electrical wiring, the green conductor acts as the ground conductor. In communication cabling systems and other types of cables covered in Chapter 8, however, this isn’t the case. Removing this exemption statement for Chapter 8 from Article 90 would have prevented the industry from being able to use green conductors – or, if there were green conductors in the cable, they would have to be terminated as a ground conductor. (This was just one of our many concerns about the removal of this exemption statement from Article 90.)


Once we were able to explain the impacts of this change to the rest of the professionals on Code-Making Panel 1, they understood our concerns. They simply hadn’t realized the impact this change would’ve had on our industry. As a result, this change did not move forward.


Situations like these are exactly why it’s important for our company and the industry to be represented in the code-development process.


If you’re interested in becoming involved with the NEC – or just want to learn more about it – you don’t have to buy a printed copy or PDF download. The entire NEC is available for free viewing online. The best way to learn more about the NEC or any standard is to spend time looking through it and read what it says – and many people don’t realize they can do that at no cost.


This link takes you to the NFPA site where you can apply to be an NEC committee member and access free viewing of the NEC (click the “free access” button at the top of the page).