Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Safety Officials Highlight State-of-the-Art Electrical Fire Prevention Technology on Eve of Important Safety Code Hearing

PRNewswire/ -- Fire chiefs from Atlanta and Fulton County, along with representatives from the Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFi), today issued a call to action to the Georgia Department of Community Affairs (DCA) to expand the use of an innovative home safety device designed to help prevent deadly home electrical fires -- a move that would help make new homes built in Georgia among the safest in the U.S. In a news conference held this morning at Fulton County Fire Station #23, Chief Larry Few from the Fulton County Fire Department and Chief Kelvin Cochran from the City of Atlanta Fire Department stressed the importance of equipping new homes with advanced electronic circuit breakers called arc fault circuit interrupters (AFCI).

The DCA is holding a public hearing on Wednesday to hear testimony from fire and electrical safety officials in favor of expanding the use of AFCI circuit breakers.

"As firefighters, we advocate for smoke detectors, fire extinguishers and other vital safety devices. Now we have another tool to aid in the fight against home fires -- one that could help prevent fires from starting in the first place," said Chief Few.

Tragically, electrical problems account for more than 28,000 home fires each year throughout the United States, resulting in 360 deaths, more than 1,000 injuries and close to $1 billion in property damage, according to the U.S. Fire Administration.

"I've seen first-hand the devastating result of electrical fires and the devastating impact they have on homeowners and their loved ones. It's especially upsetting when the cause of the blaze was an electrical condition that AFCIs could have possibly prevented," said Chief Cochran. "Instead, homes are destroyed, families are displaced, memories are lost and lives are put at risk."

AFCIs are proven safety devices that detect and prevent arc faults -- a leading cause of electrical fires in the home and a condition that standard circuit breakers do NOT detect. Upon detection, an AFCI will shut down the circuit before a fire has a chance to ignite.

Earlier this year, a state-appointed panel of electrical and fire safety experts recommended that the state of Georgia adopt the 2008 National Electrical Code (NEC), which calls for the increased use of AFCIs in the home. However, the panel's expertise was disregarded when Georgia's State Codes Advisory Committee voted to push back the adoption of the 2008 NEC, thereby keeping Georgia home builders and electricians operating under outdated electrical safety standards.

The decision over home electrical safety now rests with the DCA. In a public hearing scheduled for Wednesday, Sept. 24, fire and electrical safety advocates from several prominent regional and national safety organizations will offer further testimony encouraging the DCA to update Georgia's electrical safety requirements to the nationally recognized 2008 standards and bring increased AFCI protection to Georgia homeowners. The public hearing is scheduled for 10:00 a.m. at the office of the Department of Community Affairs (60 Executive Park South, NE, Atlanta).

"Fire and electrical safety advocates are strong supporters of AFCIs. We believe once DCA officials review the facts presented by experts with actual experience in the dangers associated with electricity, they will realize that expanding the use of these devices in Georgia is in the best interest of Georgia homeowners and their loved ones," said Christopher Lindsay, director of programs for the ESFi.

Currently, Georgia's electrical code requires that the bedrooms of all new homes built in the state be equipped with AFCI protection. Under the 2008 NEC, AFCI use will expand to other areas of the home, including living rooms and dining rooms, significantly increasing the level of protection to the home's electrical system, and decreasing the risk of an electrical fire.

In addition to the DCA's own independent panel of fire and electrical experts, the expanded use of AFCIs is supported by the National Fire Protection Association, the National Association of State Fire Marshals and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). In fact, the CPSC believes that AFCIs, if installed in all homes, could prevent more than 50 percent of electrical fires from occurring annually.

"With AFCIs installed in the home, Georgia homeowners will be able to rest comfortably knowing their home is protected with the most advanced electrical fire prevention technology available today," said Lindsay. "Georgia homeowners deserve nothing less."

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