Smart Buildings

An Inside Look at NFPA’s Process for Developing Standards

Ron Tellas
Although the National Electrical Code® is updated once every three years, work is always being done behind the scenes to protect people and property from the hazards that arise as a result of using electricity. After one edition of the code is published, development of the next edition begins right away.

 

To make sure the latest safety and technology practices are addressed and implemented, 18 code-making panels (CMPs) made up of inspectors, users, installers, laborers, testing lab specialists and manufacturers (Belden included) collaborate to review and update the National Electrical Code (NEC, or NFPA 70).

 

The latest update, which is currently underway, will result in the 2023 National Electrical Code. It’s scheduled to be issued later this year with a proposed publication date of October 2022.

 

As part of this revision, several new articles are proposed. They cover topics ranging from the use, installation and construction specifications of instrumentation tray cable to connecting alternative energy systems to utility service equipment. Included in these articles is a proposed update that will impact structured cabling: New Article 726, Class 4 (CL4) Power Systems.

 

You may hear Class 4 systems also referred to as Packet Energy Transfer (PET), Digital Electricity™ (DE), Pulsed Power, Smart Transfer Systems or Fault-Managed Power (FMP) systems. Unlike Class 2 and Class 3 power-limited circuits, Class 4 systems don’t limit power source output. Instead, they limit the energy and power available into a fault condition, including human contact, arcing and resistive faults. In other words: They monitor for faults and control power delivery to limit fault energy. This makes Class 4 systems just as safe—if not safer—than Class 2 and Class 3 systems, which allows them to be installed by the same teams that install Category cabling.

 

While work on the 2023 National Electrical Code is underway—including the possible addition of Class 4 power systems—we thought it would be a good time to examine the development process followed by NFPA. It’s an open, consensus-based process that encourages public participation at every step.

 

While our industry follows these standards to ensure uniformity, performance, compatibility and safety, not many understand how the development process works. Because Belden is involved in development, we wanted to provide a behind-the-scenes look at how an NFPA standard becomes a standard.

 

Although they’re simplified explanations, these four steps provide a helpful overview of how the process works from start to finish.

 

Stage 1: Public Input

Anyone who’s interested has a certain period of time (typically a few months) to electronically submit input on an existing standard or a new draft standard based on the most recent edition.

 

After the closing date, a First Draft Meeting is held, where the Technical Committee reviews and provides responses to this public input. Each suggestion is weighed and reviewed, and then voted up or down based on relevant data. Revisions that pass ballot during the First Draft Meeting are published as the First Draft Report.



The First Draft Meeting for the 2023 National Electrical Code was held in January 2021. Comments from the public were accepted from mid-May to mid-September 2020.

 

Stage 2: Public Comment

After the First Draft Report is posted for review, anyone who’s interested can once again submit a comment about the draft, whether it’s in support of or objection to an existing standard or new draft standard.

 

Once that time period passes, then a Second Draft Meeting is held, where the Technical Committee once again reviews and provides responses to these comments.

 

The Second Draft Meeting for the 2023 National Electrical Code was held in October 2021.

 

Stage 3: NFPA Technical Meeting (Tech Session)

After the Public Input and Public Comment stages are complete, the public has one more chance to debate and discuss issues. This occurs at the NFPA Technical Meeting, which takes place at the NFPA Conference & Expo each year in June.

 

During this time, if an original submitter of a Public Comment (or someone appointed to represent them) isn’t satisfied with the work of the Technical Committee, then they can file a NITMAM (a Notice of Intent to Make a Motion) to be heard for consideration and debate during the NFPA Technical Meeting—as long as they declare their intent to make a NITMAM ahead of time.

 

If no NITMAMs are submitted or certified as proper for a specific standard, then the standard is sent to the Standards Council for issuance instead of being placed on the NFPA Technical Meeting agenda. These standards are called “Consent Standards,” meaning that no further discussion on them is needed.

 

Appeals will be heard and voted on for the 2023 National Electrical Code at the NFPA Conference & Expo in June 2022.

 

Stage 4 (Final Stage): Council Appeals and Standard Issuance

When the Standards Council assembles to issue an NFPA standard, it also hears appeals related to the standard.

 

After hearing all appeals, the Standards Council issues the official NFPA Standard (subject to limited review by the NFPA Board of Directors). From there, the new standard becomes effective 20 days after issuance.

 

After it’s issued as a standard, it will be available for free viewing online. The best way to learn more about the NEC is to spend time looking through it and reading what it says.

 

This link takes you to the NFPA website where you can access a free version of the most recent edition of the NEC (click the “free access” button at the top of the page).

 

We will continue to keep you updated about the issuance of the 2023 National Electrical Code. If you have any questions, then please let me know.