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The cabling controversy: What is your liability?

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The 2002 National Electrical Code (NEC) will become part of the local building codes in California effective Aug. 1. This new version of the NEC includes provisions for the removal of abandoned cabling from office buildings, since cabling materials can be highly combustible and are considered a fire hazard.

BOMA San Diego is hosting a seminar to explain the intricacies of these standards. The seminar will take place on Tuesday, April 12 at the San Diego Marriott Hotel & Marina located at 333 W. Harbor Drive beginning at 1:30 p.m.

Darlene Pope, president of CRE Partners and a leading spokeswoman for the telecommunications industry and its relationship with commercial real estate, will be instructing the seminar. Pope has played an active role in educating and integrating the two industries since 1994.

Attend this seminar to learn about the new code requirements, legal liability, the penalties for non-compliance, insurance risks, fire safety hazards, and the estimated costs for cabling audits and cable removal.

In addition, learn how to protect yourself from having to bear the financial burden of paying to remove abandoned cabling someone else installed.

The NEC includes rules intended to ensure the safety during installation, use and/or disposal of materials, components, fixtures and systems. In 2002, a new provision to this code required the removal of abandoned cable. This was the first major change to cabling requirements in the NEC in more than 20 years. The NEC requirements do not have the effect of law; however, the majority of jurisdictions in the United States adopt the NEC by reference into local building and fire codes, which are then enforced by the authority having jurisdiction. If your jurisdiction adopted the NEC 2002, you must be aware of its potential impact on your building.

Abandoned cable is defined as "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." This definition is somewhat vague and the NFPA is considering issuing a draft set of clearer definitions for this portion of the code.

However, this lack of clarity does not invalidate the requirement.

Why does abandoned cable present such a problem? The accumulation of miles and miles of cabling left in the ceilings and walls of facilities has become a major concern for life safety over the past 10 years. Cables that are abandoned in ceilings, riser systems and air handling systems are a source for fueling fire, smoke and sub-lethal toxic fumes that can incapacitate.

In addition, PVC jackets tend to break down over time. This decomposition process is accelerated by exposure to increased temperatures and humidity.

As the code is enforced across the country, building owners and tenants could face thousands of dollars in additional cost to remove and dispose of the abandoned cables, tag and manage the remaining cable plant in their riser and communications areas, and ensure that tenants install proper cables to meet the building requirements for fire and safety of their other tenants.

Nevertheless, all cabling end users should understand the implications of not complying with these new NEC requirements.

As we all know, tenants come and go, and your building may contain abandoned cable from a number of former tenants. However, the building owner is ultimately responsible, and you must take steps to protect yourself and your properties from future liability.

For more information or to register for BOMA San Diego's abandoned cabling seminar, call (619) 243-1817 or visit www.bomasd.org.

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