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NC regulators pit cost versus safety in codes for circuit breakers

Posted September 15, 2015

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— The state Building Code Council is weighing possibly going against national recommendations on special circuit breakers to limit the damage from residential electrical fires.

The council is gathering public input through mid-October as it updates the state electrical code before voting on any changes in December.

Pam Elliott, who suffered third-degree burns over half of her body during a house fire when she was 5, pleaded with council members on Tuesday to follow the recommendation from groups such as the National Fire Protection Association and require arc-fault circuit interrupters in kitchens and laundry rooms.

The circuit breakers, which automatically shut off power during a fire, already are required in bedrooms and bathrooms.

"This is a proven technology that will cut off the power to your house, which will prevent the fire, to save your life and prevent injuries like mine," Elliott said.

She said she's learned to live with the scars from her injuries but wants to prevent others from having to go through the ordeal.

"It’s not like a broken arm, where you put a cast on for a while and take it off and go," she said. "The scars remain forever. They never go away."

Council members said the added cost of arc-fault circuit interrupters has prompted pushback from North Carolina home builders, but Jeff Sargent of the National Fire Protection Association said they provide "far superior" protection than regular circuits in electrical arc fires.

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  • Jeff Harkey Sep 15, 2015
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    The Building Code Council, Realtors and Builder's Association should be required to visit a few fire scenes as well as the Burn Center before they make this decision. The United States is rather far behind the rest of the developed world in terms of fire safety. Light-weight residential construction, smaller lots, open interior spaces, high ceilings, energy efficient (not necessarily fire safe) building materials, non-redundant structural systems and highly flammable synthetic furnishings have made our residences significantly more dangerous than in years past. Fires now burn hotter, faster and are more lethal than just thirty years ago.

    If you ever have the chance to watch a residential fire sprinkler demonstration, please do. Ask your builder about them... demand to know just how inexpensive they really are. You'll save on your homeowner's insurance, nearly guarantee you will never lose you precious belongings, and most importantly - protect your family.