Written By Bill Roberts, President, Network Services, Datatrend Technologies, Inc.
In the last several years, the National Fire Protection Agency (“NFPA”) and the National Electric Code® (“NEC”) have focused their attention on the potential safety threat posed by abandoned cabling throughout our commercial buildings. These abandoned cables are a source for fueling fire, smoke, and lethal toxic fumes. PVC cables, for example, emit both hydrogen chloride and dioxin. Dioxin is said to be one of the most toxic synthetic chemicals known to science.
The National Electrical Code (NEC 2002) requires that all abandoned copper and fiber cable be removed.
Definition of Abandoned Cable
“Installed communications cable that is not terminated at both ends at a connector or other equipment and not identified for future use with a tag.”
The NFPA is concerned about what happens inside the ceiling plenum space. They consider any material not in use as storage, and storage material must be removed. No exceptions.
How would this be enforceable?
- The applicable part of the NEC has to be adopted by the city/municipality involved.
- The municipality may choose or not choose to enforce that section of the NEC.
- In many cases, the removal of the “abandoned cable” could be a consideration for the permit being granted by the municipality.
Traditionally, as with many other elements in facilities, abandoned cables have been largely ignored; out of sight, out of mind. But that attitude is changing rapidly. Abandoned cables may now place a property out of code, jeopardizing fire insurance, and creating a significant legal liability.
The best time to remove abandoned cables is during a remodel construction project or during the installation of new cabling systems. Removing abandoned cable at these times minimizes the disruption of building occupants, while helping free up capacity for newly installed cables. With local inspectors making the NEC enforcement more and more prevalent, failing to plan up front, the removal of abandoned cable during a remodel could cause untimely delays while trying to pass inspections.
The only way to truly identify wiring that is not being used within a building is to conduct a comprehensive wiring survey and audit. This survey and audit will identify the extent of the problem and the level of effort that will be required to correct it. The process should start with a survey of all telecommunications and computer equipment closets.
Some of the types of cable that can be in the ceiling are:
- Electrical cable (including the PBX power cable)
- LAN (data) cable
- Phone cable
- Security cable
- Fire alarm cable
- Video cable
Cabling within the facility should fall into one of three categories:
- In use
- Tagged For Future Use
Once this has been determined, it is not as simple as just ripping out the abandoned cables and throwing them away. It is important to carefully plan and budget the cable abatement project before any cables are removed. Using skilled network technicians who have experience working with critical cabling, will limit the potential for bringing existing systems down.
Datatrend technicians provide the technical expertise and years of networking experience to successfully and efficiently plan and execute an abandoned cable removal project.