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Issue: July 2009
By: Frank Bisbee

Datacom/Telecom Glossary
In This Issue

Bits N' Pieces


Planning the infrastructure is one of the most important steps to reduce expenses over the life of the installation. Today, our buildings have five basic components to the infrastructure: POWERCONTROLSCOMMUNICATIONSSECURITYLIFE & PROPERTY SAFETY SYSTEMS.  All of these systems need to be integrated for a maximized value.

At the earliest point in the planning process the smart consumer and contractor should sit down with a value-added full service distributor. The distributor will bring a vast resource of information and expertise to the project. Going it alone is risky and often results in much higher costs in both the initial and long term costs.

But that’s just my opinion,

Frank Bisbee
"Heard On The Street" Monthly Column
4949 Sunbeam Rd, Suite 16
Jacksonville, FL 32257
(904) 645-9077 office
(904) 645-9058 fax
904-237-0365 cell

Here are some helpful guidelines for your projects:

Installing Technology Today

The Budget:

It is the first thing every CEO is going to ask for right out of the gate. In order to get there, an assessment is recommended. The assessment provides the business plan for physical plant infrastructure. The assessment will include a budget cost to design and construct. This assessment will incorporate the three major questions - what do you want, when do you want it and how much is it.

Prior to this, a pre-assessment is a requirement. This typically involves a questionnaire and single meeting with each technology department.

The Pre-Assessment:

The technology department(s) should provide a list of equipment device types, current functionality and length of service expectations for all voice, data, wireless, video, security, intercom and any other communications systems. This information shall also include metro and wide area network connectivity. SEE SAMPLE QUESTIONS BELOW. These questions do not include all disciples (security, electrical, audio visual etc.) but would be structured as such depending on requirements.

When is the assessment required to be provided-complete with breakdown of labor hours and cost? Provide a meeting and survey timeline schedule for all disciplines. Provide a report at the conclusion of the pre-assessment phase of the project.

Provide an organization chart with disciplines and contact requirements, including all building services - construction and facilities/operations and maintenance. Architects, engineers (MEP), contractors, consultants and technology personnel all become a part of the assessment process.

General construction issues:

Is there any other construction being planned and is it new or renovation?

If renovation- part or all of the structure? In order to do a site survey, if general construction work is planned, spaces requiring work need to be defined as part of renovation, addition or current spaces not scheduled for renovation.

What are the other project schedules and timelines?

What remediation will be involved- asbestos, abandoned cabling, lead, and any other plant systems and environmental issues?

Do you own the building or do you lease?

What is the projected life expectancy of the structure including expectations on future expansion?

If there is an expectation of re-use of physical plant, a full (room by room) survey should be conducted and documented and compared with owners’ documentation. To accept owner’s documentation alone could expose a future requirement for additional changes to the scope of work and would need to be factored into the construction cost.

Below are typical (pre-assessment) questions to consider pertaining to the telecommunications/technology systems and infrastructure.  Many of the questions will have a direct impact on the infrastructure design, while others are for information purposes only or to inspire thought.  There are no single correct answers to any of the questions and it is expected that many individuals within the organization will have different opinions.

The questions are somewhat technical.  It is acceptable if the answer to these questions is not known.  The questions are included to ensure the subject matter is covered completely.

Finally, these assessment questions are not intended to be all of the questions necessary to build a design but merely an introduction to some of the issues associated with the design of this project on the telecommunications infrastructure and associated systems.  It is the goal to ensure that the final design and ultimate execution of the project represent a product which is the sum of the input of all concerned parties and the best solution for the customer.

It should be noted that some of the questions below include assumptions about cable quantities, routing, systems, etc.  These assumptions are strictly for the purposes of a starting point in the design.  The assumptions are not committed to and are subject to change.  This questionnaire is one method of correcting the base assumptions.

It is expected that a timeframe and construction schedule be presented to CRG in order to properly gauge associated coordination issues within our organization. Inclusive of that would be the General Construction timeline and any other work planned.

Sample Survey Questions:

Voice Systems

Provide copies of recent quarterly or annual maintenance invoices or other documentation showing system type, port configuration and maintenance costs for the: telephone (PBX or key system), intercom, paging, voice mail auto attendant and call accounting systems

Provide copies of any templates or guidelines used to assign and administer class of service codes and account codes.

Provide copies of recent local and long distance phone bills.

Provide copy of recent Carrier’s (such as Verizon, AT&T) Customer Service Record (CSR).

Provide copies of any recently conducted traffic studies.

Provide copy of voice system implementation documentation (key sheets, floor plans, auto attendant tree diagram) and as built wiring diagrams.

Provide copies of call accounting reports

Provide copies of phone/intercom directory.

Provide contact information for each site: Phone system administrator, Business Administrator.

Provide a copy of disaster recovery plan or contingency plans for managing power disruption.

Provide copies of telecommunications related sections from Standard Operating Procedure Manual and/or Official Use Guidelines.

Provide copies of any existing documents that would indicate short & long range plans for voice systems.

Provide copies of any recently conducted customer satisfaction surveys that would indicate if systems are meeting the needs of teachers, administrators, parents and students.

Provide information on what specific new technologies the school administrators are interested in implementing. (e.g. Wireless, VoIP)

Provide information on how voice, intercom, paging and clock systems are currently integrated.

Provide information on how voice mail / auto attendant is used by administrators and teachers.

Provide information on how incoming calls are processed and how outgoing calls are made and controlled.


I           Inter-building Cabling

What is your requirement for campus inter-building cabling? (I.e. copper- twisted pair and coax, single mode fiber, multi-mode fiber).

What is your requirement for conduits between buildings, if applicable?

Future WAN connectivity if provided by carrier(s)

If a private WAN fiber connectivity plan is being considered, along with the sharing of resources, will any other locations be included?

II.         Incoming Service

A.         It has been assumed that all of the current incoming service requirements to feed the facilities will be provided in the MDF room.  Is this correct?  How many incoming service vendors (providers) can be expected?

B.         Do you want a second set of incoming service conduits at each site for the purposes of diversity and, are this something that is of interest to this facility?  Is it something that you would be looking to implement day one? Since there will be major renovation to parking lot and other “field” areas, this should be a consideration now.

III.        MDF Room - In order to identify the usefulness of this space, it is necessary to understand what systems and equipment it will be expected to hold.

A.         Is this room expected to be occupied by personnel on a regular basis (i.e. it is someone’s office) or can it be considered a “lights out” space?

B.         What systems are expected to be located within this room?  Here are some systems which would commonly be located in this room:

1.         Telephone switch or remote interface cabinets

2.         File servers, raid units, tape backups, etc

3.         Routers, concentrators, switches, etc.

4.         Infrastructure main distribution frame

5.         Air conditioning equipment

6.         UPS (uninterruptible power supply)

7.         Security system

8.         Telecommunications grounding and bonding infrastructure

C.         What is the quantity of the equipment so the room can be properly sized?

D.         In computer room spaces which are considered critical to the operation of a facility, it is often common to have redundant support systems (i.e., air conditioning units, UPS, etc.).  Is this a requirement in this facility?

E.         Is UPS power required for this room?  For what duration (i.e., 15-30 minutes)? Is emergency power required (the ability to operate the room beyond the UPS time in case of an extended power outage)?

F.         Is emergency lighting required in this room to allow for the orderly shut down of equipment in the case of a power failure?

G.         Is temperature monitoring and notification hardware required in this room?

H.         Are sprinkler systems currently located in the IDF closets and the MDF room, and would a pre-action system in the MDF room be considered.

I.          What type of security is required for this room (key lock, card reader, key pad, etc.)?

J.          We need to know all the technology spaces.

IV.        Telecommunications Closets - These rooms provide the interface between the individual workstations and the backbone systems.

A.         It is expected that the termination of the voice and data cabling will take place in these closets.  What other systems are to be located in these rooms to ensure that they are properly sized?  Some components may be:

1.         Fire alarm system panels

2.         Security system panels

3.         CATV system

4.         Paging system

5.         Equipment concentrators and switches

6.         File servers and other network hardware

B.         The current closet spaces will need to be assessed for issues such as the electrical or other equipment sharing the same space with the telecommunications. The quantity of closets and their sizes are going to be dictated by the functions they are expected to perform in addition to technical guideline (i.e., cable length limitations).  Are there any functions or particular departments or provisions for any particular floor which might necessitate and additional (or enlarged) closets?

C.         It is expected that the telecommunications (IDF) closets will contain equipment concentrators, hubs, switches or some other form of network hardware.  Is it known what type will be planned for?  Is there a preferred manufacturer?  This will affect power requirements, space, air conditioning requirements, maintainability, etc.

D.         Are there any “special” spaces which require alternate connectivity solutions?  Is it envisioned that the cabling for these spaces will be run back to the floor IDF closet for centralized management or to some other local equipment room adjacent to or co-located in the space being supported?

E.         Is it expected that the IDF closets will require air conditioning 24 hours a day, seven days a week?

F.         Will UPS or emergency power be required for the IDF closets?

G.         What type of termination hardware do you prefer for cable terminations (i.e., 110, BIX, Krone, etc.)?

H.         What manufacturers do you prefer, if any?

I.          Is a 15-year or more cable warranty a requirement for this project?

J.          Do you prefer to terminate data cables on patch panels or on the wall field?

V.         Riser cabling

A.         It has been assumed that a multipair, category 3, riser cable is all that will be required for delivery of voice service from the MDF room to each IDF closet.  Is this correct?

It has been assumed that a multimode, fiber optic, riser cable is all that will be required. Is legacy 62.5 or laser optimized 50 micron a future decision  for delivery of data service from the MDF room to each IDF closet

The voice and data cabling indicated above are all that is required from the MDF room to the IDF closets.  Are there any other systems which have not been taken in account?

 Do the sites currently have a CATV coax distribution infrastructure and will that be a future consideration?

Will rooftop provisions be required for a satellite and/or microwave dishes (current or future)? 

The conduit and sleeve riser system will need to support voice, data/LAN, CATV and spare conduits for future expansion.

Are there any requirements for remote antennas and wireless systems?

VI.        Workstation cabling

Below are some areas and assumptions.

                        Auditorium/Lecture Halls

Do you want to hard wire every seat or do you want to use wireless?

What media presentation requirements are planned for?

Classrooms (for training environments)

Do you want (1) data cable per student seat? Is this sufficient?

Do you want a CATV station?

Do you want additional ports for printer or peripheral equipment?

Do you want projectors and speakers in the classrooms?

Do you want to coil slack 6 feet in the raised floor (if applicable) for flexibility at each outlet?

Do you want cables to be terminated in the raised floor box or do you want them to be terminated in the desk?

Is it acceptable that all cables be homerun to the IDF closets?

Will “in-classroom” hubs and cabling be utilized for classroom connectivity?

Will Computer lab connectivity requirements be wired or wireless?

What are the typical furniture arrangements in computer labs?


Do you want any house/emergency phones?


Do you require phone service?-(this is a code requirement)

Pay Phone Locations

Current and future requirements?

Mechanical Rooms

Do we need to provide LAN or outside lines for the BMS and where are they located?

Electrical Room

Do you want a voice and/or data connectivity?

Security Room

How many phones, modems, and LAN connections do you need?

Custodial Offices

Do you want a voice and/or data connectivity?

Receiving Area

How many phones, modems, and LAN connections do you need?


Do you want a data jack for future monitor or slot monitor display or video wall?


If used as a break room, do you need voice, data, and wireless connectivity?

Do you want a CATV station?

Meeting/Conference Rooms

What function does this room serve and what is your requirement for voice and data? Is 1 voice/2 data sufficient?

Do you want a CATV station?


Identify areas where you need LAN connectivity?  Do you want wireless?

At study area, do you want data at each location?

Is it correct to assume that students will be able to connect in the lounge area?

Do you want wireless next to bookshelves by the end of the stack? 

Is 1 voice/2 data at librarian desk sufficient?

Are “library look-up” workstations required?

Do you want a CATV station at the casual area (s)?

Projector screens and ceiling mounted projector connectivity with teacher control station requirements.

Office/Cubicles/Administrative workstations

What is your requirement in the office area?  Is 1 voice/2 data sufficient per desk?

Do you want a CATV station? There may be several waiting rooms (CST), main office locations, nurse area who would require this connectivity.

Wireless Access Point Locations

Will these locations be placed in hallways, classrooms etc?

Will these locations require power or be powered by low voltage technology?

B.         What cabling method is preferred to feed individual workstations (i.e., category 5E or 6, shielded, unshielded, fiber optic cable, wireless, etc.)? All data connectivity will be designed with a minimum of capabilities for Gigabit Ethernet.

There are a lot of options that are available as part of the design of the horizontal cable system.  Some include: color coding of voice and data cabling and outlets, placing of bar code identification as part of workstation outlet tags (this allows for easier integration with office automation systems), allowing space for future cabling (i.e., fiber), etc.  Are these or other variations of interest? 

VII.       Management and Operation

A.         Who maintains the current infrastructure (i.e., contractors, staff, determined on a case-by-case basis, etc.)?

B.         Who manages the electronics which are connected to the infrastructure (i.e., File servers, routers, concentrators, PBX, voicemail, etc.)?

C.         How are moves, additions and changes administered?

D.         Who do users call for support issues?

E.         Will guests be able to access the network with their laptops at locations other than offices and lecture halls?  If so, where?

F.         How are security issues addressed pertaining to equipment?

G.         How are access issues addressed pertaining to technology areas (i.e., IDF closets)?

Is this facility expected to be available 24 hours a day?  If so, how is support provided after normal hours?

Has outsourcing application development, support and maintenance been discussed?

Current labeling scheme and modifications for administration and documentation will need to be addressed.

Recommendations for a cabling infrastructure management database to be discussed.




Get in Touch with the Industry’s ONLY Dual-Heater Splicers by Sumitomo and Get a Free Apple iPod Touch

Sumitomo Electric Lightwave launches its Get in Touch splicer promotion beginning July 6.  Get in Touch with the industry’s ONLY dual heater splicers, now at lower 2009 list prices.  The Type-66 TuffCat Mass Dual-Heater and the Type-39-FastCat Dual-Heater Core Alignment splicers increase splicing speed and efficiency by 70% and keep you at the top of your game.  Each splicer kit includes cleaver, jacket remover, battery, heat shrink Sleeves and a lot more.  PLUS… Get a FREE Apple iPod Touch with each unit purchased.  Multiple purchases receive a Free Apple iPod Touch Plus a $100 Gas Card (gas cards:  while supplies last).  Call 800-775-0382 or email for more information and a quote.  This is a limited time opportunity.  Sumitomo is Ready to Assist You.



Concert Technologies has just released the fourth and final installment of our white paper series, A Guide to Selecting the Right Technology Rollout Company for Your Project. This white paper, entitled Collaborative Partnerships for Nationwide Rollouts & Global Technology Deployments, explains the importance of your technology rollout company's Partnerships.

About this White Paper
Partnerships can consist of technician businesses or individuals with working relationships that vary from company to company. This paper explores the details of these partnerships and how they apply to the rapid deployment of nationwide rollouts and global deployments. The many advantages of understanding how partnerships work within the Technology Rollout System include:

    Accelerated deployment timeframes

    Minimized technician travel time

    Expedited communication methods

    Accelerated emergency response times

    Expertise in local codes and regulations to ensure compliance

    Rapid access to materials

View White Paper as a Webpage

Download Your Complimentary Copy

Since 1995, we have specialized in the rapid deployment of multi-site, multi-service, multi-technology rollouts on a nationwide and global scale. Find out how we can help you with your next multi-site technology rollout. Visit Concert Technologies Online

43766 Trade Center Place, Suite 130, Dulles, Virginia 20166
Phone: 703-796-5400, Fax: 703-796-1898 | copyright © 2009 Concert Technologies



The folks at Megladon have made some radical breakthroughs in the area of fiber optic cable connectors.

The new technology is a major step ahead for fiber optic cabling to surpass the functionality of copper in ease of use. Imagine MACs (Moves, Adds, & Changes) without the fear of connections being damaged by scratching. The Megladon ScratchGuard® family of products delivers performance without worry.

See the attached PowerPoint for specifications on this remarkable technology. Ask for ScratchGuard or equal.



RoHS, WEEE, REACH, EuP Demystified for Electronics, Medical, Toy, Avionics Companies

Arlington, Va. b Contrary to popular belief, what you don't know can hurt you. In the case of environmental regulations, manufacturers and suppliers of electronics, medical devices, toys and other products must stay aware of laws affecting all target markets or they could find themselves being slapped with harsh penalties, shut out of their strategic markets and pushed aside by the competition as a result. But the task of keeping up with new laws and regulations around the globe is ever-more daunting, as regions, countries, provinces, states and cities introduce their own measures designed to clean up the environment and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

To educate companies on increasingly stringent worldwide environmental regulations, TIA has published a series of free white papers (available at that address the latest challenges facing manufacturers and marketers on the four most-regulated continents.

Each paper summarizes the main laws governing product import, distribution, packaging, labeling and recycling or end-of-life disposition with special attention paid to restricted substances such as lead, mercury, hexavalent chromium and cadmium. The full detail and documents are posted as they emerge on TIA's environmental intelligence analysis service online, EIATRACK.

Europe, and particularly the EU, has led the way in adopting strict regulations governing hazardous substance use in products, as well as testing, reporting, labeling, energy efficiency end-of-life measures such as product take-back. The EU is updating its Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) regulations next year. Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemical Substances (REACH), which extends the EU chemical law's scope from chemical substances in bulk to products containing chemicals, imposes requirements regarding data gathering and analysis, testing, chemical safety assessment, reporting and communication. The regulation prescribes sanctions for non-compliance. In addition, companies must be cognizant of the Energy-Using Products (EuP) Directive, which aims to optimize environmental performance of products, and the EU Battery Directive, which seeks to minimize the negative impact of battery waste on the environment. Finally, the Waste Elect! rical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Directive, which imposes on producers and distributors btake-backb and recycling obligations, is under review with new amendments expected this year.

In North America, products are subject to an expanding patchwork of complex legislation. State and local governments in the United States, along with the Canadian provinces, have passed and continue to introduce numerous product-based environmental and safety measures, creating new compliance and marketing challenges for global companies. Some requirements are exceeding comparable mandates in Europe and Asia.

In Asia, the largest push toward product-oriented regulations is evident in China, India and South Korea. Of greatest concern is China's development of more stringent requirements than RoHS and WEEE regulations currently in place in the EU. As the world's largest producing country and one of the largest consuming countries, China has become the region's bellwether jurisdiction for changes in product-oriented regulations. With a 1.15 billion population moving rapidly into the technological era, India is now mobilizing efforts to create voluntary measures.

Latin America has witnessed an explosion of product stewardship initiatives for electrical and electronic equipment, spurred in part by international legal trends, serious urban waste management challenges, a growing local environmental awareness, and the rise in influence of local and international NGOs. Governments facing limited waste infrastructure capacity, outdated laws and regulations, and insufficient funding to support management and/or regulatory enforcement have turned to product stewardship as an attractive solution, shifting responsibility from the public to the private sector.

TIA's EIATRACK helps companies mitigate the enormous cost of tracking so many jurisdictions. More than 130 companies subscribe, including ADC, Adtran, Agfa, Airbus, AMD, Apple, Alcatel-Lucent, Avaya, Avid, Baxter, Belkin, Belden, BenQ, Best Buy, Boeing, Bose, Brother, Canon, Carestream, Cisco, Corning, Dell, Epson, Extreme Networks, Flextronics, GE, Harmonic, Hitachi, HP, IBM, Intel, JVC, Kodak, Konica Minolta, Lenovo, Lexmark, LG, Mitel, Mitsubishi Electric, Mitutoyo, Molex, Motorola, NEC, Nokia, Nortel, OcC), Panasonic, Philips, Pitney Bowes, QLogic, Qualcomm, RadioShack, Ricoh, RIM, Samsung, Sanyo, Sennheiser, Sharp, Shure, Siemens, Sony Ericsson, Spirent, Sun Micros! ystems, Tektronix, Teradyne, Texas Instruments, Thomson, Toro, Toshiba, Unisys, ViaSat and Xerox.

EIATRACK employs highly-respected legal firms and technical experts to monitor and analyze regulations related to the RoHS, WEEE, REACH, EuP Directives, battery disposal, design for the environment, energy efficiency and more, for products that contain electronics, cabling, chips, plastics and other materials that are subject to compliance rules.

For more information about free demos, trials and subscriptions for EIATRACK, contact TIA's Environmental Program Manager Ellen Farmer at +1.703.907.7582 or at


Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA) Issues Signaling Conformance Test Specification For MEID For Cdma2000b. Spread Spectrum Systems

Standard Defines Air Interface Signaling Conformance and Interoperability Tests for CDMA Base Stations and Mobile Stations Implementing Mobile Station Equipment Identifier

Arlington, Va. - The Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA), the leader in advocacy, standards development, business development and intelligence for the information and communications technology (ICT) industry, recently released a new standard, TIA-1084 Signaling Conformance Test Specification for Mobile Station Equipment Identifier (MEID) for cdma2000B. Spread Spectrum Systems.

TIA-1084 is the first revision of the document and tests the signaling requirements of TIA-1082 Mobile Station Equipment Identifier (MEID) Support for cdma2000B. Spread Spectrum Systems. The specification defines air interface signaling conformance and interoperability tests for Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) base stations and mobile stations implementing MEID.

In TIA-1084, "mobile station" refers to a subscriber terminal, handset, PDA, wireless local loop unit, or any other subscriber terminal that communicates with the base station at the air interface. "Base station" refers to the composite functionality of the base station and connected network elements or emulators.

Separate signaling conformance tests are specified for mobile stations and base stations. Conformance tests are typically performed using an emulator to interface with the unit under test, with a cabled connection for the RF interface. Any test should be executed only if unit under test supports corresponding feature.

For interoperability test cases, a cabled connection is typically used for the air interface connection between the mobile station and base station.

TIA-1084 was formulated under the cognizance of TIA Engineering Committee TR-45 Mobile & Personal Communications Systems, TR-45.5 Subcommittee on Spread Spectrum Digital Technology. To learn more about how to participate in standards development with TIA, please contact Stephanie Montgomery at

To obtain copies of the document, contact IHS International at +1.800.854.7179 (United States and Canada); +1.303.397.7796 (international) or visit

For technical information, please contact Peter Bogard at For media inquiries, please contact Mike Snyder:

Sign up for TIA RSS news feeds on standards and other TIA news.

TR-45 member companies include: Aeroflex; Agilent Technologies, Inc.; AirCell, LLC; Airvana, Inc.; Alcatel-Lucent; ALLTEL Communications, Inc.; Apple; AT&T; Bell Canada; Bridgewater Systems Inc.; Camiant; CDMA Development Group; Cingular Wireless; Cisco Systems, Inc.; CML Microcircuits (USA) Inc.; CommFlow Resources Inc.; CSI Telecommunications; Defense Information Systems Agency; DoCoMo Communications Lab USA, Inc.; Dolby Laboratories Inc.; Ericsson Inc.; ETI Connect; FBI; FTR&D LLC; Fujitsu Network Communications, Inc.; Gemalto INC; Hitachi Telecom (USA) Inc.; Huawei Technologies USA; Hughes Network Systems, LLC; I'M Technologies Ltd.; Intel Corporation; Intellon; Intrado; IP Fabrics; Kyocera Sanyo Telecom, Inc.; LG InfoComm U.S.A., Inc.; Lockheed Martin Corporation; Marketing Information Technologies, Inc. (MIT); Maz-Sky Canadian International Group, Inc.; Motorola, Inc.; Movius Interactive Corporation; National Communications System; NeuStar I! nc.; Nokia Siemens Networks; Nokia, Inc.; Nortel Networks; ORCA SYSTEMS, INC.; Panasonic Computer Solutions Company; Prysmian Cables and Systems; QUALCOMM; Research In Motion Corporation; Rogers Wireless; Rohde & Schwarz, Inc.; RTKL Associates Inc.; Samsung Electronics; Samsung Telecom America; Sharp Laboratories of America; Sierra Wireless America, Inc.; Sigma Delta Communications, Inc.; Space Data Corporation; Spirent Communications; Sprint Nextel; SS8 Networks, Inc.; Starent Networks Corporation; Tatara Systems; Telcordia Technologies; TeleCommunication Systems, Inc.; Telus Mobility; Texas Instruments, Inc.; US Cellular; UTStarcom, Inc.; Verizon Wireless; VIA Telecom; ZTE USA, Inc.

About TIA
The Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA) represents the global information and communications technology (ICT) industry through standards development, advocacy, tradeshows, business opportunities, market intelligence and world-wide environmental regulatory analysis. With roots dating back to 1924, TIA enhances the business environment for broadband, mobile wireless, information technology, networks, cable, satellite and unified communications. Members' products and services empower communications in every industry and market, including healthcare, education, security, public safety, transportation, government, the military, the environment and entertainment. TIA co-owns the SUPERCOMMB. tradeshow  and is accredited by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). Visit

TIA's Board of Directors includes senior-level executives from ACS, ADC, ADTRAN, Alcatel-Lucent, ANDA Networks, ArrayComm, AttivaCorp, Avaya, Bechtel Communications, Inc., Cisco Systems, Corning Incorporated, Ericsson, Inc., GENBAND, Inc., Graybar, Henkels & McCoy, ILS Technology, Intel Corporation, Intersect, Inc., LGE, Microsoft, Motorola, Nokia Siemens Networks, Nortel, Panasonic Computer Solutions Co., Qualcomm, Research In Motion, Sumitomo Electric Lightwave Corporation, Tellabs, Tyco Electronics, Ulticom, Inc., and Verari Systems. Advisors to the Board include FAL Associates, Orca Systems and Telcordia Technologies.


Rick Fedrizzi And USGBC Recognized As Visionaries In Sustainability By The National Building Museum

June 8, 2009 (Washington, DC) – The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) and its President, CEO and Founding Chairman, Rick Fedrizzi, were recognized with the National Building Museum’s 2009 Honor Award at its annual gala last week. The award acknowledges leadership on environmental issues and the significant accomplishments made in improving sustainability within the built environment. 

“It’s an honor to be recognized amongst many visionary leaders in the sustainability moment, and by an organization that has exhibited continued leadership within the built environment,” said Rick Fedrizzi, President, CEO and Founding Chair of the USGBC.  “The green building movement offers an opportunity to respond to the most-important challenges of our times, and we remain single-mindedly committed to delivering on our vision of green buildings for everyone within a generation.”

The Honor Award was established by the National Building Museum in 1986 to salute those who have significantly improved the built environment. Other honorees included Mayor Richard M. Daley and the City of Chicago; Majora Carter; and Louis Chênevert and United Technologies (UTC). The National Building Museum is America’s leading cultural institution dedicated to exploring and celebrating architecture, design, engineering, construction, and planning. 

Read Rick Fedrizzi’s remarks.
Watch the 2009 Honor Award: Visionaries in Sustainability Video.

The Washington, D.C.-based U.S. Green Building Council is committed to a prosperous and sustainable future for our nation through cost-efficient and energy-saving green buildings.  With a community comprising 78 local affiliates, more than 20,000 member companies and organizations, and more than 100,000 LEED Accredited Professionals, USGBC is the driving force of an industry that is projected to soar to $60 billion by 2010.  The USGBC leads an unlikely diverse constituency of builders and environmentalists, corporations and nonprofit organizations, elected officials and concerned citizens, and teachers and students.

Buildings in the United States are responsible for 39% of CO2 emissions, 40% of energy consumption, 13% water consumption and 15% of GDP per year, making green building a source of significant economic and environmental opportunity. Greater building efficiency can meet 85% of future U.S. demand for energy, and a national commitment to green building has the potential to generate 2.5 million American jobs.


McCormick Systems Adds $100,000+ To Electri International

McCormick Systems recently presented a check for $100,000 to ELECTRI International – The Foundation for Electrical Construction.  Company president Todd McCormick explained the decision to increase the gift, “We have been involved with ELECTRI International for many years.  We’ve seen it grow and we recognize the importance of keeping it strong.” 

During the presentation at company headquarters in Chandler, Arizona, Todd McCormick also announced that McCormick Systems Inc. will continue to work with the Foundation to provide estimating software and companion education/training to institutions across the country.  Company founder, Jack McCormick noted, “We’ve made an in-kind investment of close to $900,000 by giving colleges and universities access to our software.  Students and their professors gain and so do their colleges.”

McCormick’s additional $100,000 cash investment in ELECTRI International will support both the Education Center and the new Transmission & Distribution Enterprise, a dedicated fund within the Research Center that focuses on research and education for line constructors.   Jack McCormick is enthusiastic about this new fund. “Over the years, there have been a number of proposed projects that would have been beneficial for line contractors, but there’s only so much project money to go around.  We serve both the inside and outside parts of this industry, so it’s a natural fit for McCormick to put money into this new dedicated fund.”  McCormick Systems is the first electrical construction industry partner to make an investment in the ELECTRI International T & D Enterprise.

McCormick Systems was founded in 1979 by Jack McCormick.  “I had started out as an electrician apprentice in Eugene, Oregon, in 1958.  By the early 1970s, I had my own electrical contracting company.  Then, I had an idea for a new product and turned to one of NECA’s Oregon chapters as a sounding board.  Those chapter members were instrumental in reviewing and evaluating our new product development.”   NECA honored McCormick in 1981 with a special award for providing the first affordable estimating software on a mini-computer. 

Todd McCormick sums up, “The electrical industry has been good to the McCormick family over the past fifty years.   Staying involved with ELECTRI International is a way for my father and me to continue giving back to our industry.”    

Acknowledging the McCormick Systems gift, ELECTRI Council chairman Michael Mazzeo (Mazzeo Electric Corporation, NY) stated, “We are honored to recognize McCormick Systems as an ELECTRI International Program Guarantor.   The level of commitment shown by both Jack and Todd McCormick sends an important signal to our contractors and to other industry partners.  We are strong.  We are vital to our industry.  We are moving forward.”   

The McCormick Systems gift also generates a release of $20,000 from the Foundation’s current anonymous challenge grant.  For additional information about ELECTRI International’s research and education portfolio and about the Challenge Grant, contact ELECTRI executive, Russ Alessi at 301-215-4518 or .

About McCormick Systems

Privately owned McCormick Systems (Chandler, AZ) is the nation’s leader in software used for electrical and ABS estimating and project management. The company’s products enable contractors to quickly produce consistent, profitable estimates for electrical and voice-data-video work, and more.  More information: or 800-444-4890.


Ortronics/Legrand To Showcase Layer Zero™ Solutions At Cisco Live 2009

New London, CT, June 25, 2009 – Ortronics/Legrand, a global leader in high performance network infrastructure solutions, will showcase their Layer Zero™ solutions at Cisco Live 2009, June 29 – July 2, in San Francisco, California. Ortronics® Layer Zero solutions add a new level of stability to the network by introducing an additional layer to the traditional network architecture.

The OSI network model is the accepted framework for network design and specifies seven layers to use for network planning. The bottom layer of this model is Layer One – the physical layer, which is the structured cabling itself, but what Layer One does not include is the physical support, or the infrastructure, for the cabling.  Ortronics/Legrand introduces Layer Zero – The Infrastructure Layer, as a new foundation for the OSI model to address the critical role that infrastructure plays in network performance and provide a new level of stability to the network. Using the right equipment at Layer Zero can reduce power consumption, cooling costs, and reduce the risk of equipment failure, as well as enhance overall system performance.

Ortronics Layer Zero solutions include the Mighty Mo 10 advanced cable management rack and Mighty Mo cabinet, which are designed to maximize network equipment airflow by maintaining cold-aisle/hot aisle airflow, whether the network equipment is front-to-back, bottom or side venting. For a more complete Layer Zero solution, the Mighty Mo line of cable management systems are designed for seamless integration with other Legrand infrastructure solutions, such as Wiremold® pathways and Cablofil® wire mesh cable tray. Visit Booth #543 at Cisco Live! to learn more about using Layer Zero to improve network performance.

For more information contact:

Ortronics/Legrand, 125 Eugene O'Neill Drive, New London, CT 06320

Sales: 860-445-3900 or 800-934-5432, Fax: 888-282-0043 or 860-405-2992

E-mail:, Internet:


European Bicsi Conference Opens In Dublin, Ireland

Annual Conference highlights advances in Information Transport Systems Industry

Dublin: 23 June, 2009:  Today, the BICSI European Conference officially opened in Dublin, Ireland, with an 8.30 key address from Minister of State, Conor Lenihan, T.D., at City West Conference Centre, Saggart. A Teachta Dála (T.D.) for the Dublin South West Constituency. Minister Lenihan was appointed the Minister of State in April 2009, and has special responsibility for Science, Technology, Innovation and Natural Resources.

Minister Lenihan said that Ireland has a strong information communications technology (ICT) industry which is highly innovative, research intensive. “This evolving industry is an important strength and very relevant to the development of Ireland as a ‘Smart Economy’.” He said that Ireland’s 2008 Smart Economy Plan “outlines a strategy for developing an economy via a low-carbon approach, and offers a unique opportunity in the information transport systems (ITS) industry for optimizing the convergence of ICT and energy in order to assure sustainable economic development. I welcome this European BICSI conference, which will highlight these growing technology trends over the next few days in the areas of data centers, green ICT, next generation enterprise networks and fibre optics.”

Additionally, to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the BICSI European Region, and the 25th anniversary of the Registered Communications Distribution Designer (RCDD) program, a keynote address was delivered by BICSI President Edward J. Donelan, RCDD, NTS, TLT, on the history and future of the ICT and ITS industries.

Donelan said the BICSI European Conference is a celebration of the region’s and RCDD program’s anniversaries, which has led to a revitalization of the importance of the RCDD credential as it relates to providing global connectivity for IP integration on a “massive scale.” He said that this integration is in direct correlation to BICSI’s localization strategy, as outlined in BICSI’s Strategic Plan. “We want to empower local education and training efforts that will lead to professional credentials, enabling a high degree of competence and confidence. You have to have competence to achieve confidence. Competence and confidence is required in a global community, and BICSI will be paving the way for professional IP integration into the global ITS industry.”

Highlighting the growing technology trends, both locally and globally, is the objective of the European BICSI conference.  There were a total of 12 educational sessions held in the first day. Throughout the three-day conference there will be 22 educational sessions covering a number of important topics affecting the ICT and ITS sectors. Emphasis is being placed on the Global Data Centre standards, Green ICT and Fibre Cabling Systems, Next Generation Fibres and Standards, Setting the Standard for Next-Generation Enterprise Networks and Ensuring Fibre Optic System Performance.

“I came here to the Dublin conference because I’m looking to keep up with technology and developing standards,” said David Smith, RCDD, Emcor, Kent, UK. “My company is specifically looking into the green data center products that are being offered here. I was very successful with my research at the BICSI Las Vegas conference, and since then I’ve been looking forward to this conference.”

In the morning, during lunch and in the evening, more than 340 visitors, delegates and exhibitors attend the BICSI Exhibition and Reception where they learn about the latest cutting-edge products and services, and network to create new business opportunities for their companies. Exhibitors at the conference are: ADC KRONE, Anixter International Ltd., Brand-Rex, Cablines Pro Net Ltd., Chatsworth Products Inc., Corning, CNet, Fineline, Fluke Networks, MaxCell, Mayflex, and Panasonic. The event is sponsored by Corning and Excel.

”I’m a speaker at this conference and also here to discover what the challenges are in the ITS industry,” said Jan Piet Wielenga of ADC Krone, Cheltenham, UK. “I’m interested in the new Registered Information Transport Professional (RITP) credential that BICSI is offering because I will gain a better understanding of the ITS industry with an aim toward aligning product developments with market stability.”

“It’s good to meet like-minded people in our industry,” said Graeme Duncan, RCDD, Xtreme Business Solutions, Aberdeenshire, Scotland. “I’m here to exchange ideas with my peers. I was very impressed with the Microsoft data centre presentation this morning. It was very innovative.”

For more information contact:

John Bentham, RCDD, Country Chair Ireland BICSI  Tel: +353 1 4930311

Maarja Kolberg, BICSI Communications Manager  Tel: +1 813.979.1991

Ashley Macaluso, BICSI Communications & PR Campaign Specialist  Tel: +1 813.979.1991



BICSI is the professional association supporting the information transport systems (ITS) industry. ITS covers the spectrum of voice, data, electronic safety & security, and audio & video technologies. It encompasses the design, integration and installation of pathways, spaces, fiber- and copper-based distribution systems, wireless-based systems and infrastructure that supports the transportation of information and associated signaling between and among communications and information gathering devices. 

BICSI provides information, education and knowledge assessment for individuals and companies in the ITS industry. We serve more than 23,000 ITS professionals, including designers, installers and technicians. These individuals provide the fundamental infrastructure for telecommunications, audio/video, life safety and automation systems. Through courses, conferences, publications and professional registration programs, BICSI staff and volunteers assist ITS professionals in delivering critical products and services, and offer opportunities for continual improvement and enhanced professional stature.

Headquartered in Tampa, Florida, USA, BICSI membership spans nearly 90 countries. For more information, visit


Seven Industrial Ethernet Solutions From Fluke Networks

Referenced in Rockwell Automation Encompass Program

Listing of key products help users improve uptime and plant productivity by quickly identifying the best solution for any given industrial networking challenge

EVERETT, Washington – Fluke Networks, provider of innovative Network SuperVision Solutions™ for the testing, monitoring and analysis of enterprise and telecommunications networks, announced today that seven of the company’s industrial Ethernet solutions are now included as part of Rockwell Automation’s Encompassprogram.  Encompass is Rockwell Automation’s third-party reference program, which helps users quickly locate the products that best solve their application challenges.

“Every Encompass member offers something unique to automation industry,” said Suzanne Kerner, Encompass Program Manager  “We are happy to add Fluke Networks’ expertise in industrial Ethernet and network problem solving to the Encompass program.”

The Fluke Networks solutions included in Encompass are:

DTX Cable Analyzer™, the only copper and fiber tester that certifies cabling installations to TIA/ISO industrial standards with IP67 rated industrial connector M12 on-board modules

CableIQ™ Qualification Tester, used to quickly troubleshoot connectivity problems and qualify cabling bandwidth

MicroScanner2 Cable Verifier, which reduces test time and user errors by displaying 4 key test results on one screen

EtherScope™ Series II Network Assistant, a handheld 10/100/Gigabit troubleshooting tool for copper, fiber optic, and wireless LANs

LinkRunner™ Pro network verification tool, used in industrial Ethernet settings to establish Ethernet link at up to Gigabit speeds and acquire DHCP address

OptiFiber™ OTDR, a complete fiber test solution providing detailed diagnostic information of the fiber optic portion of industrial Ethernet networks

SimpliFiber™ Pro optical loss kits, for verification and troubleshooting of both multimode and singlemode fiber optic links

“Fluke Networks is pleased to share our knowledge of networking to the industrial market,” said Mara White, Fluke Networks industrial Ethernet Marketing Manager.  ”The Encompass program helps industrial automation professionals get the answers they need in a fast, efficient manner.  We are proud to be a part of such a successful program.”

Users can view Encompass solutions first-hand at Automation Fair 2009

The full range of Encompass-referenced Fluke Networks products will available for hands on demonstration at Automation Fair 2009, November 11-12 at the Anaheim Convention Center.  Automation Fair is the premier industry event focusing on advanced automation products, integrated control and information architecture.

Product availability
Fluke Networks industrial Ethernet solutions are available for immediate delivery from leading industrial distributors across North America.

About Fluke Networks
Fluke Networks provides innovative solutions for the installation and certification, testing, monitoring and analysis of copper, fiber and wireless networks used by enterprises and telecommunications carriers. The company's comprehensive line of Network SuperVision™ Solutions provide network installers, owners, and maintainers with superior vision, combining speed, accuracy and ease of use to optimize network performance. Headquartered in Everett, Washington, the company distributes its products in more than 50 countries. More information can be found by visiting Fluke Networks’ Web site at\industrial or by calling (800) 283-5853.

About the Rockwell Automation PartnerNetwork
Fluke Networks is part of the Rockwell Automation PartnerNetwork™ program, which includes business enterprise, sales and solutions, and product and technology partners. Through collaboration with Rockwell Automation, Fluke Networks helps its customers improve time to market, lower total cost of ownership, better manage assets and lower manufacturing business risk. For more information, visit

Rockwell Automation, Inc. (NYSE: ROK), the world’s largest company dedicated to industrial automation and information, makes its customers more productive and the world more sustainable.  Headquartered in Milwaukee, Wis., Rockwell Automation employs about 20,000 people serving customers in more than 80 countries.


ELECTEC Ltd. Introduces EZ-Whip, A Snap-In Labor-Saving Cable Product

ELECTEC Ltd., a Canadian innovator of Manufactured Wiring Systems is pleased to introduce EZ-Whip, a snap-in labour-saving cable product.  Manufactured with ULTRALX® cable and prepared with snap-in box connectors and push-in wire nuts, EZ-Whip not only saves time on the job site enabling contractors to get in, get out and get paid faster, but greatly reduces job site waste.

EZ-Whips are available in multiple configurations and wire sizes ranging from 10AWG to 14AWG.  Electec also manufacture a DALI construction which includes both the electrical and data circuits necessary for leading-edge energy management solutions in one convenient and cost-effective cable.

For more information on EZ-Whip and other ULTRALX® cable products, click on

About Electec Ltd.

Electec is a leader in the design, development and manufacturing of building wiring and cabling systems.  Located in Ottawa ON, we offer safe, reliable and economical alternatives covering a wide variety of commercial, institutional and industrial wiring.  Electec ULTRALX® cable products are sold through electrical distributors such as Anixter and Torbram Electric Supply.

You can reach Electec at 613-836-0300 or click on


New Fundamentals of Fiber Optics Training Course - The Light Brigade

The Light Brigade announces its new two-day technical training course, Fundamentals of Fiber Optics. This entry-level course covers both multimode and singlemode fiber networks and is intended for installation contractors and end users involved in building and maintaining local area networks (LANs), municipal networks, and private networks.

Specific topics covered include:

An overview of the history of fiber optics

Fiber optic transmission theory

Optical fiber manufacturing

System design parameters

Installation guidelines

Fiber optic fusion splicing

Fiber optic connector termination

Field testing and troubleshooting

Technical standards and codes

This course includes extensive hands-on exposure to optical fiber termination, system testing and troubleshooting, and fusion splicing through six hours of hands-on training using the latest in fiber optic equipment.

Fundamentals of Fiber Optics is eligible for Certified Fiber Optic Technician (CFOT) and Advanced Fiber Optic Technician (AFOT) certifications through the Fiber Optic Association, and is approved for Continuing Education Credits from BICSI.

Company Information

Since 1987 The Light Brigade has instructed 35,000 attendees in its public and custom classes. The company offers courses nationwide covering basic fiber optic design, maintenance and testing plus advanced courses such as FTTx, DWDM, SONET, PMD/CD, and video for traffic or surveillance. The Light Brigade has produced professional-quality educational DVDs, videos and CDs, and a self-paced FTTx/PON computerized training module. All of The Light Brigade's training materials are non-vendor specific and demonstrate theory and techniques applicable to any manufacturer's product.

For more information or to order, contact The Light Brigade at (800) 451-7128 or email You may visit our website at To obtain print-quality artwork, please contact Gina Lynd at


NEMA Calls On Congress To Fund Anti-Counterfeiting Programs

ROSSLYN, Va., June 23, 2009—The National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) has called on Congress to appropriate funds to implement programs authorized to combat counterfeiting that were contained in The Enforcement of Intellectual Property Rights Act (Public Law 110-403), also known as PRO-IP, which was approved last year.

The new law not only promotes coordination among domestic and foreign government agencies, but it also brings focused law enforcement resources to bear on anti-counterfeiting efforts. NEMA actively supported this legislation and provided input to Congress.

According to NEMA Board Chairman Stuart Thorn, these provisions are vital to domestic electrical manufacturers.

“It is critical that Congress begin funding the PRO-IP programs so that the U.S. does not fall further behind in fighting anti-counterfeiting. The domestic extension cord industry, for example, has disappeared because of unfair competition from substandard, counterfeit electrical cords that falsely contain certification marks,” he said.

Counterfeiting of certain electrical products has been on the rise as evidenced by reports by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection that rank electrical products fifth in counterfeit imports.

As Congress addresses funding for programs with the start of the 2010 fiscal year on October 1, 2009, Thorn emphasized that particular programs needing funding include:

$15 million for 10 additional operational agents of the FBI designated to support IP investigation and forensic work

$25 million in the Department of Justice to make grants to eligible states or local law enforcement agencies for training, prevention, and prosecution of cases

$1 million in the Executive Office of the President for a new national coordinator and four staff positions

$5 million to provide investigation and prosecution resources at U.S. Attorney General offices

NEMA is the association of electrical and medical imaging equipment manufacturers. Founded in 1926 and headquartered near Washington, D.C., its approximately 450 member companies manufacture products used in the generation, transmission and distribution, control, and end use of electricity. These products are used in utility, industrial, commercial, institutional, and residential applications. The association’s Medical Imaging & Technology Alliance (MITA) Division represents manufacturers of cutting-edge medical diagnostic imaging equipment including MRI, CT, x-ray, and ultrasound products. Worldwide sales of NEMA-scope products exceed $120 billion. In addition to its headquarters in Rosslyn, Virginia, NEMA also has offices in Beijing and Mexico City.

NEMA. Setting Standards for Excellence

Visit our website at


IDEAL Thermal Imager Helps Keep Server Rooms Up And Running

New HeatSeeker™ detects hotspots in servers, UPS batteries, and electrical connections before costly system failure occurs, also measures temperature fluctuations in cooling systems

SYCAMORE, IL, June 24, 2009 -- IDEAL INDUSTRIES, INC. a global leader in test and measurement technology, debuts its new HeatSeeker™ Thermal Imager, a low-cost, high performance camera that blends visible images with infra-red images to track down problems that threaten the continuous operation of  server rooms and data centers.

With just a quick scan of the surface, the HeatSeeker™ can help to determine the status of batteries and capacitors, to check transformers, generators, switchboards and wiring connections for signs of overload or failure, or even to detect very small variations in enclosure temperatures that can signal air conditioning equipment that needs maintenance or repair. 

"Early identification of hotspots can result in significant cost-savings, as well as help data centers achieve high nines reliability," explained Dave Skowronski, Product Manager for IDEAL's Test and Measurement Division. "By employing our new HeatSeeker, techs can perform professional  scans of even the largest data centers in a few hours or less, with very little training.  If you can take a good photograph with a digital camera, you can perform professional survey with our HeatSeeker."

Less cumbersome to use than traditional thermal imagers, the handheld IDEAL HeatSeeker™ is designed to meet the needs of professional IT technicians, electricians, engineers and building inspectors. Features include:

Auto Hot/Cold Tracker
The HeatSeeker™ incorporates an Auto Hot/Cold Tracker, which eliminates guesswork by automatically pinpointing the hottest and coldest temperatures on the screen with dual cursors, and providing temperature and difference between the two points.

Digital/Thermal Blending
HeatSeeker™ captures a "real" digital photo of the subject that is then blended with a full infrared picture to provide added detail to the image under review. Depending on the complexity of the image, the technician can choose to blend the digital photo with 25%, 50% or 75% infrared to better identify suspected problems. The digital image and the thermal can also be shown simultaneously in the display. The combination of the Auto Hot/Cold Tracker and digital/thermal blending qualifies the HeatSeeker™ for a wide variety of applications, improving its versatility and value.

Other features of the HeatSeeker™ are a Class II laser, a built-in LED illuminator for use in poorly lit areas, a removable handle, and adjustable emissivity and reflected temperature to provide industry standard accuracy.

Simple Operation
Operating the HeatSeeker™ does not require special training. Once an image is captured, technicians can measure temperature of any point on the fully radiometric image. A large full color LCD display provides clear color indication of surface temperature variations ranging from 14° F to 660° F. A full 1,849 temperature measurements can be viewed live on the LCD with an accuracy of ± 2% or ± 2° C. 

Saved images can be marked with text and live voice recordings to enhance communication. The provided ThermalVision™ software makes it easy to view, edit or analyze images on a PC, as well as to generate detailed inspection reports.

Pricing and Availability
The IDEAL HeatSeeker™ Thermal Imager (Part # 61-844) is immediately available with an MSRP of $3,500 (U.S.). Accessories include: USB cable, camera handle, carrying case, power supply, and ThermalVision software. An optional car charger is also available.

For more information, contact IDEAL INDUSTRIES, INC., Becker Place, Sycamore, Illinois 60178. Or phone 1-800-947-3614, Fax: 1-800-533-4483. On the web,


Harger’s Intersystem Bonding Termination Device

GRAYSLAKE, Illinois – May 1, 2009 – Harger Lightning & Grounding introduces their new Intersystem Bonding Termination Device (IBTD). The IBTD is designed for terminating grounding conductors from power, telephone, cable TV, satellite dishes and lightning protection systems for both commercial and residential applications. It accepts one 6-1 AWG grounding electrode conductor, four 14-4 AWG bonding conductors and one Class I copper lightning conductor. It’s slide in, snap fit lid design makes installation and inspection easy. The IBTD meets the requirements of 2008 NEC® Article 250.94.

Harger Lightning & Grounding is a leading manufacturer of lightning protection and grounding equipment, as well as UltraShotTM and Ultraweld® exothermic welding materials for the communications and electrical industries.  Harger also provides design and engineering services and specializes in offering total systems solutions for their customers.

301 Ziegler Drive, Grayslake, IL 60030

847-548-8700 • 800-842-7437 • Fax: 847-548-8755

Website:  • Email:


Christopher Pyke, Ph. D., Named Research Director For The U.S. Green Building Council

Addition to USGBC Staff Reflects Organization’s Growing Commitment to Research

WASHINGTON, D.C. (June 24, 2009) – The U.S. Green Building Council announced this week that Christopher Pyke, Ph. D. has been appointed Research Director. Dr. Pyke joins USGBC from CTG Energetics in Irvine, Calif., where he was National Director of Climate Change Services.   He brings a strong background of leadership in green building research to USGBC, underscoring its commitment to raising the bar on research related to green building science and technology, including the performance of LEED-certified buildings. This research will be vital to the ongoing development of the LEED green building certification program.

“The rapid evolution of the green building industry provides tremendous opportunities for continuous growth and innovation,” said Rebecca Flora, Senior Vice President of Education and Research, USGBC. “With Chris leading our research team, USGBC’s role in building-related research and our commitment to utilizing scientific rigor and analysis to inform LEED rating system and curriculum development will drive exponential expansion of the green building body of knowledge.”

Dr. Pyke has worked with USGBC in the past, most recently contributing technical support to the development of the rating systems under LEED v3 and as a subject matter expert for the development of USGBC’s 200-level LEED education curriculum. He has a Ph.D. in Geography from the University of California, Santa Barbara. Dr. Pyke will also support USGBC’s work with the Clinton Climate Initiative’s Climate Positive Development Program.

About the U.S. Green Building Council
The Washington, D.C.-based U.S. Green Building Council is committed to a prosperous and sustainable future for our nation through cost-efficient and energy-saving green buildings.
With a community comprising 78 local affiliates, more than 20,000 member companies and organizations, and more than 100,000 LEED Accredited Professionals, USGBC is the driving force of an industry that is projected to soar to $60 billion by 2010.  The USGBC leads an unlikely diverse constituency of builders and environmentalists, corporations and nonprofit organizations, elected officials and concerned citizens, and teachers and students.
Buildings in the United States are responsible for 39% of CO2 emissions, 40% of energy consumption, 13% water consumption and 15% of GDP per year, making green building a source of significant economic and environmental opportunity. Greater building efficiency can meet 85% of future U.S. demand for energy, and a national commitment to green building has the potential to generate 2.5 million American jobs. For more information, visit


BOMA International SVP Patricia Areno To Receive ASAE’s Highest Individual Honor

(WASHINGTON—June 11, 2009) The Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA) International’s Senior Vice President Patricia M. Areno, CAE, has been awarded ASAE & The Center for Association Leadership’s Professional Performance Award. The award is one of ASAE’s top three highest individual honors that recognize excellence in the association profession. The awards will be presented at ASAE & The Center’s 2009 Annual Meeting & Exposition, August 15-18 in Toronto, Canada.

“Pat has demonstrated true dedication and leadership at BOMA and in her career as an association professional,” said BOMA International President and Chief Operating Officer Henry Chamberlain, APR, CAE. “Whether she is spearheading groundbreaking education programs for the commercial real estate industry or creating strategic partnerships that open new doors for our association, she works tirelessly to achieve excellence.”

Areno is the third recipient of ASAE & The Center’s Professional Performance Award, which recognizes valuable contributions made by association executives who are at the top level within their organizations but are not CEOs.

“Areno has committed significant time to the association profession and portrays skills of true association leadership,” said ASAE & The Center President and CEO John H. Graham IV, CAE. “Her numerous contributions over the years both for ASAE & The Center as well as to BOMA International represents the highest standards of conduct and both personal and professional commitment to the association community. We are proud to recognize her with this year’s Professional Performance Award.”

With more than 35 years of experience in association management, Areno directs all BOMA International divisions and the association’s Partnership Program, and is responsible for developing and executing the association’s annual business plan.

Areno helped launch the award-winning energy efficiency education program, the BOMA Energy Efficiency Program (BEEP®), which has educated over 14,000 industry practitioners and has been adopted for company-wide training by several major commercial real estate firms.  In 2009, BOMA was honored with its third consecutive EPA Energy Star® Partner of the Year Award for BEEP, and also earned the coveted EPA Climate Protection Award and an ASAE Award of Excellence. She was also instrumental in developing several new education programs at BOMA, including e-Seminars, Webinars, BOMA Boot Camp for Property Managers, which won an ASAE Award of Excellence, Emerging Leaders in Real Estate at Harvard University and Foundations of Real Estate Management

Areno conceived and launched the successful BOMA Partnership Program, which brings together BOMA and key suppliers in a strategic business relationship to achieve mutual goals. She also led an effort to raise nearly $100,000 to assist BOMA members who were victims of Hurricane Katrina though the BOMA Foundation.

Areno is active in ASAE & The Center for Association Leadership and currently serves on  ASAE’s Associations Advance America Committee. In 2008 she was nominated for the Greater Washington Network Women Who Advance Excellence in Associations Award. She has also  served as an officer of the Empire State Society of Association Executives and was a member of ASAE & The Center’s Education Committee, Education Section Council and Meetings and Expositions Section Council.

Areno has also held positions with the National Association of Professional Insurance Agents (PIA); the New York State Nurses Association; PIA of California and Nevada; and PIA of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.  She resides in Lake Ridge, Va. with her son Jimmy and is active in her community and church.

About BOMA International

Founded in 1907, the Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA) International is an international federation of more than 100 local associations and affiliated organizations. The 18,000-plus members of BOMA International own or manage more than 9 billion square feet of commercial properties in North America and abroad. BOMA’s mission is to enhance the human, intellectual and physical assets of the commercial real estate industry through advocacy, education, research, standards and information. On the Web at


Eliminating Alien Crosstalk: Testing Should Be Performed In The Field When Deploying 10GBASE-T

Alien crosstalk describes the general phenomenon where energy is coupled between cables in a common bundle or installation. It was brought to light by the development of active network hardware that could provide 10-Gigabit Ethernet over twisted-pair cabling (10GBASE-T). Alien crosstalk becomes worse as the operational frequency increases.

Since the frequency range required to support 10GBASE-T is higher than that of 1000BASE-T, crosstalk, both internal and alien, has become a difficult obstacle to overcome when designing and installing LAN cabling to support the latest technologies.

Mitigation techniques
1. Proximity is the key contributor to alien crosstalk. When 10GBASE-T is being selectively deployed, avoid using adjacent ports in the patch panel. There may be no alternative, however, when deploying 10GBASE-T to workstations located near each other.

2. When deploying 10GBASE-T in adjacent ports of a patch panel, alien crosstalk testing should be performed in the field.

3. In the event the alien crosstalk test fails, take the following actions to reduce the level of alien crosstalk.

Separate equipment and patch cords and unbundled horizontal cables to increase the space between the cables.

If the cords cannot be separated, use either CAT 6A or CAT 6 screened twisted-pair (ScTP) cords.

Reconfigure any cross-connect as an interconnect.

Replace CAT 6 connecting hardware with CAT 6A.

Replace the CAT 6 horizontal cable with CAT 6A.

4. Retest the channel after performing any mitigation techniques to be sure that the techniques have brought the alien crosstalk margins back to acceptable levels.

Field testing
Alien crosstalk testing involves testing various combinations of links that are identified as victims and disturbers. Performing a test on a single victim cable involves at least six different testing configurations and as many as 12 depending on the manufacturer of the field test equipment.

Given that multiple tests are required for each victim link, requiring 100 percent testing of every link as a victim is not practical. When testing, if the first three victim/disturber combinations reveal a condition known as insignificant alien crosstalk, the test can be stopped, without finishing the 1 percent or minimum five victim links. Insignificant alien crosstalk is a condition where the measurement is below a certain level and may not be detectable by some field test instruments.

The selection of disturber links has to be done individually for every victim link. Select all links that run in the same cable bundle or are most consistently positioned relative to the victim cable. These bundles may be found in the patch panel, cross connect or conduit. Add any additional links that occupy adjacent positions in the patch panel or outlet.

When selecting links to test, in addition to the location of the links in the patch panel, the routing of the links also should be considered. The disturber links should be run in the same pathway as the victim link to have the most impact on alien crosstalk measurements.

The proper selection of links for alien crosstalk testing is critical and requires a certain degree of knowledge about the topology of the cabling plant. Without knowing where the various links are routed to within the building, the process of testing can be inaccurate, since the chosen disturber links may not be close enough to the victim to provide any significant data.

After deciding on the victim and disturber links to check, the field tester needs to be connected to the cabling according to the manufacturer's directions. Some field testers require a personal computer to be attached to the field tester during the measurement process to gather the data and compute the alien crosstalk results. Additionally, the tester and computer may need to be moved to the opposite side of the link for the second half of the alien crosstalk testing process.

Because the number of links to test and the time to test each victim/disturber combination can be significant, choosing the right field tester can save time and trouble. A field tester that does not require a computer for data acquisition or double testing of each victim/disturber combination can cut 75 percent of the total alien crosstalk testing time, while also eliminating the need to bring a computer into the field.

Author: Dan Payerle, Business Unit Manager, IDEAL INDUSTRIES, INC.
Dan Payerle has been actively involved in the LAN cabling business providing network design, testing, troubleshooting, consulting and training services for a variety of companies over the last decade. His involvement in the industry began with Wavetek Instruments in San Diego where he provided application support and field assistance to customers of the company's LAN and electrical test equipment division. Later he headed the LAN Division's Systems Test Engineering group before transitioning to the field of on-site training. Working with several national training companies, Dan developed training programs for copper and fiber optic installation courses, and created curricula for trade schools to use in the process of becoming nationally accredited.

For more information, contact IDEAL INDUSTRIES, INC., Becker Place, Sycamore, Illinois 60178. Or phone 1-800-324-9571, Fax: 1-888-222-6140. On the web,

About Ideal Industries, Inc.

IDEAL INDUSTRIES, INC. has been serving the electrical industry since 1916. IDEAL is one of the world's leading manufacturers of professional quality tools and supplies serving installation professionals in the construction, maintenance, data communications and original equipment manufacturing industries.


Anixter’s CEO And President, Bob Eck, Keynote Speaker At The 2009 Securing New Ground Conference

Anixter’s CEO and President, Bob Eck, will be the opening keynote speaker at the 2009 Securing New Ground conference. The conference draws the highest caliber attendees from the security, financial and government sectors. With topics ranging from convergence and industry trends to strategic video decisions and next-generation strategies, the conference will provide new and innovative ways to grow the security business.

As a technical leader in the security industry, Anixter is dedicated to keeping customers current on the latest products, applications, standards and emerging technologies:
• Infrastructure Solutions Lab with end-to-end testing and performance reports
• Compatibility testing to ensure interoperability of various manufacturers’ products
• Technical knowledge of end-to-end systems for surveillance and access control
• Deep understanding of IT and telecommunications standards
• Local technical support with regional security managers and local networking and security experts
• Training and educational opportunities through Anixter University


AFL Network Services Selected For Peabody Hotels Network Expansion

Spartanburg, South Carolina - June 23, 2009

AFL Network Services, a leader of integrated network solutions for the hospitality and telecommunications industry, announces it was selected to install state-of-the-art network infrastructure as part of Peabody Hotel Group's $450 million expansion of the Peabody Orlando. AFL will provide engineering support, materials, and installation for the voice, data and video networks.

Given the high rate of leisure traffic and ranking as the nation's No. 2 convention destination, Orlando has a reputation for some of the best hotels in the country. At the top of the list is the Peabody Hotel, one of the most luxurious sites in the city and neighbor to the Orange County Convention Center on International Drive. Priding itself on catering to the meetings and conventions industry nationwide, the Peabody Hotel has established itself as the Orlando convention hotel of choice for the nation's professional meeting planners. In order to accommodate the many vacationers and business executives that travel to the area week in and week out, the Peabody sought to expand its operations, adding a new tower to its existing properties.

“We selected AFL as our service provider out of a group of highly-qualified contenders,” said Michael Craft, Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer for the Peabody Hotel Group. “This project is critical to our company and is very complex due to its size, as well as the quality that we are demanding of the completed product. We believe AFL is well- qualified to handle the cabling component of the project, and are counting on it to meet our technical requirements on schedule and on budget. We are very pleased with how AFL's work is progressing thus far”. 

With a target completion date of Fall 2010, the Peabody expansion includes a new 32-story guest room tower. With 1,641 luxurious rooms the Peabody Orlando will become the largest four star hotel in North America, excluding casino properties. Other project highlights include a 55,000 square foot ballroom, three new pools and a 2,100 vehicle parking garage. From conference room to poolside cabana, all guest areas of the hotel will have access to a wide range of technology amenities.

AFL Network Services scope of work includes the installation of nearly one million feet of Cat5e cabling, intended for voice applications, and RG-6 coaxial cable will be installed for transmitting cable television and other video applications. Approximately one million feet of Cat6 cable with connectivity will be installed to allow for a high-speed data infrastructure, helping facilitate records, billing, and information that the hotel will store in its computers. The data infrastructure will also transmit digital signage information throughout the hotel and convention center. The entire fiber backbone will consist of AFL fiber and connectors.

“AFL Network Services is extremely pleased to be selected for such an exciting project. The scope of this project is a showcase for AFL's expertise with end-to-end network solutions and value engineering. We look forward to celebrating the grand opening of the new expansion,” stated Kent Brown – Vice President, Enterprise of AFL Network Services.

AFL Network Services' mission is to provide advanced hospitality technology and network management services. AFL not only provides expertise in end-to-end network solutions, but partners with clients to ensure guest satisfaction and loyalty. Whether building, upgrading or expanding network communication systems, AFL has extensive knowledge of the latest technologies in the industry.

About AFL Network Services
AFL Network Services is headquartered in Spartanburg, South Carolina. With 35 field offices in the U.S. and over 1,300 employees, AFL provides telecommunications installation, maintenance and system integration services in the enterprise, wireline and wireless markets.  For additional information on products and services offered by AFL Network Services and its affiliates visit   

About Peabody Hotel Group
Peabody Hotel Group (PHG) is one of the nations leading hotel management companies, operating as two divisions, the Peabody Hotels division and the Brand Management Division. PHG specializes in profitably directing the operations of successful, high-profile, Peabody-flagged hotels and quality independent/franchise hotels. For more information about Peabody Hotel Group, visit


USGBC's Greenbuild Conference And Expo Three Time Recipient Of IMEX Green Meetings Award

June 3, 2009 (Washington, DC) – The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) today announced that it has been awarded the IMEX Green Meetings Award in recognition of the 2008 Greenbuild International Conference and Expo, which took place in Boston, Mass.  This is the third time that the USGBC has accepted this honor for demonstrating an unwavering dedication to minimizing the show’s impact on the environment. Greenbuild is the world's largest conference and expo dedicated to green building, and convenes the building industry for three days of outstanding educational sessions, renowned speakers, green building tours, seminars and networking events.

“While this is our third year receiving the prestigious IMEX Award, we’re even more humbled by this accomplishment given that our Boston show was the largest conference in Greenbuild’s seven year history, hosting nearly 30,000 attendees and featuring the largest exhibit hall yet with 1,400 exhibits,” said Kimberly Lewis, Vice President of Conferences and Events for the USGBC.  “We’re looking forward to continuing to help transform the global meetings industry at this year’s Greenbuild show in Phoenix, Ariz.

The IMEX Green Meetings Award is presented in partnership with the Green Meeting Industry Council (GMIC). The Award sets stringent standards and judges applicants against their ability to demonstrate innovative efforts to significantly minimize the environmental impact of a meeting or conference. A judging panel, which consists of senior industry experts, examines a variety of success measures. They include energy efficiency, air and water quality, water conservation, waste minimization and environmental purchasing criteria. Judges also ask applicants to explain their economic indicators, if and how their meeting helped commitment to change within the local community, and also how it aided conservation.

Kimberly Lewis accepted the award on behalf of the Council last week at an IMEX Gala Dinner in Frankfurt, Germany. This past March, USGBC’s Conferences and Events team was recognized as the first organization in North America to receive certification under BS 8901:2007, the world’s first certifiable sustainability management system standard for the events industry.

About Greenbuild

The U.S. Green Building Council’s Greenbuild International Conference & Expo convenes the industry’s largest gathering of representatives from all sectors of the green building movement.  Three days of extensive educational programming, workshops, a vast exhibition floor and ample networking events provide unrivaled opportunities to learn about the latest technological innovations, explore new products, and exchange ideas with other professionals. Greenbuild 2009 will be held on Nov. 11-13, 2009, in Phoenix, Ariz.  This past year’s conference in Boston, Mass. drew more than 28,000 attendees and featured more than 800 exhibit booths.  Visit for more information.  To view last year’s Greenbuild show, go to


Agentis Energy™ Unveils Smart Grid Technology At Npe2009

‘Enabling manufacturers to account for ‘every kilowatt-hour of energy use’

Innovative Wireless Sensors and Software Quantify Use and Cost in Real Time for Devices that Consume Electricity, and Identify Opportunities for Energy Efficiency in Many Industries

ELMHURST, ILLINOIS, U.S.A., June 2009: The new company Agentis Energy™ made its debut at NPE2009 with a web-based interface that enables plastics processors and other manufacturers to monitor the energy consumption of every electrically powered device in the plant and use the information to save on energy costs. The company participated in the NPE exhibit of Fast Heat Inc., a partner company of Agentis Energy. 

mso-bidi-font-family:Arial'>After raw material, energy is typically the second- or third-largest operating cost for a processing plant. The new Agentis Energy technology, called The Acuity Solution, tracks kilowatt-hours of electricity usage in real time on a per-device or per-job run basis, and calculates costs according to whether the usage took place during the electrical utility’s peak or off-peak times.  

mso-bidi-font-family:Arial'>“Until now, processors have paid their monthly utility bills with little or no knowledge of the factors contributing to what is, after all, a really big expense,” said Tim Stojka, CEO of Agentis Energy. “The Acuity Solution is an easy-to-install, easy-to-use system that enables them to account for every kilowatt-hour of energy use and, for the first time, to confidently manage their energy consumption and reduce utility costs.”   

mso-bidi-font-family:Arial'>The data-gathering units in the Acuity Solution are sensors that are readily installed on any electricity-using device in a processing plant, including all of the equipment making up a production line. These sensors are connected to multi-channel nodes, which convert the information  wirelessly  over the Internet to the Acuity server. The company’s specific energy consumption data can then be viewed through a secure connection via any web browser. 

mso-bidi-font-family:Arial'>Details on the Agentis Energy and The Acuity Solution, including a soon-to-be-completed website and software demonstration, were available at the Fast Heat exhibit at NPE2009. The trade show took place June 22-26 at Chicago’s McCormick Place.

mso-bidi-font-family:Arial'>AGENTIS ENERGY supplies a web based interface solution coupled with wireless power sensors that enable any business using multiple electrical powered devices to monitor electricity consumption in real time, calculate electrical costs on a per-device basis, and use the resulting analysis to manage associated expenses.   Called The Acuity Solution, the technology provides customers with electricity visibility, peak vs. off -peak cost reporting, and customizable alerting and analytics. Agentis Energy is based in Elmhurst, IL, U.S.A. 


Trapeze Networks RF Firewall: Location-Based WLAN Security

Perimeter Security Solution: Ultimate Cyber Barrier

PLEASANTON, Calif., June 29 / Trapeze Networks, a Belden brand (NYSE: BDC - News), announced global availability of the Trapeze RF Firewall(TM), a location-based firewall securing wireless LAN networks (WLANs). The Trapeze RF Firewall is the first application available on the new Trapeze LA-200E Location Appliance, also announced today. (See June 29, 2009 press release, "Demand for Location Services Driving Trapeze Networks to Deliver High Capacity Solutions.")

The Trapeze RF Firewall is a perimeter security application that works in conjunction with the Trapeze LA-200E. For example, a company may decide to deny network access to anyone located outside the building. The Trapeze LA-200E Location Appliance is able to discern exactly where someone with their Wi-Fi device is located. Based on that information, the RF Firewall refers to the enforced policy, denying access to the network inside. This type of firewall thwarts a wide variety of hacking / cracking techniques.

In what is possibly one of the largest cybercrimes committed to-date, thieves parked outside a TJ Maxx department store used their wireless laptops to read transactions processed by Wi-Fi-connected cash registers inside the store. Ultimately, 45,000,000 credit card numbers were stolen. A Trapeze RF Firewall running on a Trapeze LA-200E could have located the notebook in the parking lot and stopped it from connecting to the network.

The Trapeze RF Firewall delivers these capabilities and benefits:

Location-Based Perimeter Security - RF Firewall creates a virtual location-based firewall around facilities and prevents unauthorized access from attackers attempting to break into a wireless network using high-gain antennas, spoofed MAC addresses, broken encryption keys, and stolen credentials and devices. Using location as a part of authentication procedures, outsiders are kept off the network to prevent systematic attacks commonly mounted from outside.

Location-Based Policy Enforcement - RF Firewall allows IT / security personnel to define, manage and control a hierarchy of network administration and security policies. Strict access and authentication policies are defined based on physical boundaries - e.g., inside or outside the building, public spaces or employee areas.

Actionable Alerts and Authentication History - RF Firewall provides actionable alerts by identifying the precise location of the potential security breach. It also tracks user and Wi-Fi device movements based on authentication requests to access the wireless network. A complete, detailed device list and the history of all devices on the network, including attempts to connect to the network, are displayed in real time.

Base Platform for Securing Business Applications - RF Firewall is powered on the Trapeze LA-200E for a unified view into the location of potential security breaches. The Trapeze LA-200E with RF Firewall provides a secure WLAN platform for additional business applications such as ActiveAsset(TM) for asset management and SmartPass(TM) for user provisioning and guest access control.

About Trapeze Networks

Trapeze Networks, a Belden Brand, is a leader in enterprise wireless LAN equipment and management software. Trapeze was the first company to introduce NonStop Wireless - delivering unmatched reliability to the enterprise wireless LAN, and its solutions are optimized for companies requiring mobility and high bandwidth such as healthcare, education, and hospitality. Trapeze delivers Smart Mobile® providing scalable wireless LANs for applications such as Voice over Wi-Fi, location services, and indoor/outdoor connectivity.


A Big Hand For The Folks At Liberty Property Trust – Supporting The Troops

Liberty Property Trust’s Cell Phone Collection Efforts On Earth Day Will Bring Hours Of Talk Time To Us Soldiers Serving Abroad – And Keep Toxins Out Of Landfills

Developer’s national collection campaign nets more than 2,000 phones in 17 cities

MALVERN, PA – May 19, 2009 – Liberty Property Trust (NYSE:LRY), the real estate investment trust that owns and manages nearly 2.5 million square feet of office and industrial properties in Jacksonville, today announced that 86 cell phones were collected during its “Cell Phones for Soldiers” Earth Day Campaign during the week of April 20.

“Our tenants and their employees came out in force to support Cell Phones for Soldiers, and their efforts will make a real difference in both the lives of armed forces personnel serving overseas, and to our planet,” said Mike Heise, vice president and city manager, Liberty Property Trust. “Their contributions resulted in the donation of 5,160 minutes of ‘talk time’ to these servicemen and women, and kept toxic components such as arsenic, beryllium, cadmium, copper, and lead out of landfills.”

Liberty hosted the program in 17 cities nationwide, collecting 2,021 cell phones. These phones will be shipped to Cell Phones for Soldiers in the coming days.

Keeping 130 Million Cell Phones Out of Landfills

According to Cell Phones for Soldiers, Americans will replace an estimated 130 million cell phones this year, with the majority of previously used phones thrown away or stuffed in a drawer. To prevent this, Cell Phones for Soldiers collects those obsolete cell phones and turns them into hours of talk time for soldiers abroad.

They accomplish this by sending the phones to ReCellular, which pays Cell Phones for Soldiers for each donated phone – enough to provide an hour of talk time each. (The phones themselves are not sent to service personnel overseas, as most are not GSM enabled.)

Cell Phones for Soldiers was founded by teens Robbie and Brittany Bergquist from Norwell, Mass., with $21 of their own money. The registered 501c3 non-profit organization has raised almost $2 million in donations and distributed more than 500,000 prepaid calling cards to soldiers serving overseas.

The program also keeps the phones out of landfills. Toxic materials found in phone circuitry and displays, as well as many of the non-toxic materials found in phones (precious metals, engineered plastics and glass) take years to decompose. They can also be recycled less expensively and with less environmental impact than when newly manufactured.

About Liberty Property Trust
Liberty Property Trust (NYSE:LRY), headquartered in Malvern, PA, is dedicated to enhancing people’s lives through extraordinary work environments. The real estate investment trust (REIT) serves customers in the United States and United Kingdom through the development, acquisition, ownership and management of superior office and industrial properties. Liberty's 77 million square foot portfolio offers exceptional locations and flexible design to more than 2,100 tenants at approximately 750 office, distribution and light manufacturing facilities.


CABA Is On The Move And Great Things Are Coming Together

CABA – The Continental Automated Building Association is at the forefront for the converged technologies that deliver more for less. Smart Buildings are happening and you should be on top of it.

June 3, 2009

CABA Launches Intelligent Buildings Market Sizing Study

June 3, 2009

CABA Completes Connected Home User Interface Study  

May 20, 2009

CABA Undertakes Video Consumption Study

May 12, 2009

Andrew Wale of Legrand Appointed to CABA Board

May 12, 2009

Dr. Morad R. Atif of the National Research Council of Canada Appointed to CABA Board


BuildingGreen And The National Association Of Home Builders Announce Curriculum Partnership to be a key “engine” behind NAHB’s new Master Green Builder Remodeler designation

Brattleboro, VT (June 8, 2009)BuildingGreen LLC, the parent company behind, today announced a partnership with the NAHB National Green Building Program (NAHBGreen,, the green building advocacy arm of the nation’s leading home builder association.

This work brings together an independent source of residential green building information with one of the leading national residential green building programs.’s highly respected resources on green building will be the teaching platform for the advanced building science course, a key component of the curriculum for NAHB’s new Master Green Builder Remodeler designation.

“It’s really gratifying to have selected as the source for the building science information for the NAHB Master Green Builder Remodeler (MGBR) Designation,” said Peter Yost, Director of Residential Services for BuildingGreen. “This means that all of our rich content—the GBA building encyclopedia, the detailed case studies, and more than a thousand construction details—will be at the fingertips of students who wish to learn advanced green building principles as they connect key building concepts with real-world examples.”

Two features make GreenBuildingAdvisor an especially appropriate choice for the MGBR program. First, both instructors and students can “build” course content using the “my GBA” project file folder tool, and second, the course material will continuously expand and deepen as new content is added by the GreenBuildingAdvisor team, which includes 15 nationally recognized green building experts.

Don Ferrier of Ferrier Homes in Ft. Worth, Texas is a leading member of the NAHB Green Building Subcommittee working with NAHB and BuildingGreen on this new program. “I am very impressed with the GBA website,” says Ferrier. “Its depth and breadth is a good fit for the new Master Green Builder Remodeler designation, building substantially on the Certified Green Professional program.”

NAHB is planning to offer the new Advanced two-day class in early 2010.

For more information, visit

About BuildingGreen

BuildingGreen, LLC, at, has provided the building industry with quality information on sustainable design and construction since its founding in 1985. Publications of the Brattleboro, Vermont company include Environmental Building News, the GreenSpec® Directory, and the residential design and construction resource For information, visit or call 802-257-7300.

About the NAHB Green Building Program

The NAHB Green Building Program helps move the practice of green building into the mainstream, increasing the incorporation of energy efficiency, water and resource conservation, sustainable or recycled products, and indoor air quality in the everyday process of home building. The program includes the ANSI-approved ICC-700-2008 National Green Building Standard (NGBS), the NAHB Model Green Home Building Guidelines, the National Green Building Conference, and the Certified Green Professional designation. For additional information visit or call 877-624-2476.

Jerelyn Wilson  802-257-7300 ext. 102


Snake Tray Introduces A Snake Box Recessed Power Module For Access Floors

For clients wishing to eliminate the need for an EPO switch or for convenient power above the access floor, Snake Tray is proud to announce Snake Box recessed power modules that allow equipment to be connected to power above the access floor. Snake Box helps maintain the separation of air masses above and below the access floor by providing convenient plug in connections above the access floor. Snake Box can be built in any voltage and amperage configurations and is made in the USA.

For further information on Snake TrayÒ products please call 800-308-6788, email, or visit .


Make Electrical Contractors Your Customers

Meet Them at the NECA Show in Seattle

June 2009 Edition 2 • Prepared by the National Electrical Contractors Association  • Convention - Exposition Dept.

NECA Show News

The Event for alternative energy solutions and sustainable electrical construction!

Electrical Contractors are looking for Energy Solutions at the NECA Show.  Many of the nation’s largest electrical contractors have already pre-registered for Seattle. They are looking for new energy efficient solutions for their customers. This is just a sample of the NECA members who will be walking the show floor:

 - Cache Valley Electric, UT

- Cleveland Electric, GA

- Cupertino Electric, CA

- Dimond Electric, AK


- Florida Electric Service

- Inglett & Stubbs,   GA

- Mass. Electric , MA

- Morrow-Meadows,   NY

- Miller Electric , FL

- Newkirk Electric Associates, MI

- O’Connell Electric, NY

- Placer Electric, CA

- Rosendin Electric , CA

- Roman Electric , WI

- Sachs Electric, MO

- Tri-City Electric, FL

Will you be there to meet them?

NEW! NECA offers Special Line Constructors Meetings in Seattle

NECA has added a new education track for Line Constructor members that

include an overview of the Electric Transmission and Distribution (ETD)

Partnership and its objectives. Pre-registration is brisk including NECA

members such as: Quanta Services, MYR Group, PAR Electrical Contractors and

Midwest Electric. Will you be there to meet them?

Check Out the  NECA Show Blog

Follow the  NECA Show on Twitter

Find the  NECA Show on Facebook

Watch  NECA on YouTube

NECA Show Hours

Sun, 9/13 11:30 am – 5:00 pm

Mon, 9/14 11:30 am – 4:00 pm

Tues,9/15 10:30 am – 2:30 pm  For 2009 Exhibit Information

Call Us Today!  Julie Duda • 770-632-0044


New Edl Explains Financing Options For Renewable-Energy Installations


Financing options for those who wish to own/operate solar, wind and other

energy-generating equipment are evolving just as quickly as

renewable-energy technology itself. NECA's latest Electrical Design Libary,

Financing the Future, focuses on paying for renewable-energy installations

with the help of third-party financiers, government incentives, and more

Members Of Congress See Green Jobs Training At Electrical Apprenticeship Training Centers Around U.S


Several Members of Congress visited "Green Jobs Open House" events at

NECA's local training centers this week. The programs showcased how the

electrical construction industry is already training workers for renewable

energy and energy efficiency projects.  Read More…

Snowden Electric Making Cogeneration Project Work For Alliance Power


In California, a partnership of state and federal agencies uses fuel

cells and microturbines to reduce energy and pollution at an

aluminum-recycling plant.  NECA member company Snowden Electric, Buena Park

, CA , has handled electrical contractor duties on more than 10 projects

for  Alliance  . Andy Woehrman, project manager for Snowden, describes the

interface between electric and gas utilities as one of the most

time-consuming and demanding aspects of an installation.

Read More… (Snowden Electric executives and key management will attend the

NECA Show in  Seattle  .)

Follow the NECA Energy Solutions Blog


Follow NECA & the IBEW on

Electric TV


“We're pulling out all the stops to make sure that the 2009 NECA

program is relevant and useful in today's economic climate.”

John Grau, NECA CEO

NECA • 3 Bethesda Metro Center • Suite 1100Bethesda MD 20814


NOTE: The reprints do not make up for the big value that comes from the actual printed magazines. SUBSCRIBE to those magazines now.

NFPA Journal - (April 2009 issue) The National Fire Protection Association

We highly recommend that you consider joining the NFPA. Safety is too important to ignore.

In Compliance - 2009 Life Safety Code®

Before applying a new edition of any NFPA code or standard, it is important to review the changes to that edition. This process usually involves sitting down with the new edition and comparing it to the previous one, being very deliberate as you note the changes and updates to the document. The 2009 edition of NFPA 101®, Life Safety Code®, has been published and includes several substantive changes from the 2006 edition. If your jurisdiction is considering adopting the 2009 Life Safety Code, your thorough review of the changes to the code should begin immediately.

Each subsequent edition of any NFPA code is a refinement of the editions that came before it. Sometimes changes are made simply to make the code more user-friendly, while other changes reflect added or strengthened requirements based on the investigation of fires and the lessons learned from those incidents. Still other changes may be the result of studies done by universities, testing labs, or government research facilities such as the National Institute for Standards and Technology and National Research Council Canada.

The latest version of the Life Safety Code begins with a couple of pages that describe the origin and development of the code. This material amounts to a summary of the important changes in the code since its inception—the last paragraphs of this section describe the significant changes in the 2009 edition—and is highly recommended reading. In addition to providing a bit of the code’s history, these pages describe some of the significant changes in the more recent editions of the code.

Each change from the previous edition is identified by a vertical line in the margin. This line indicates a change in that section but does not indicate whether the change was a word change or an entire new section. A dot in the margin signifies that a section was removed from that location in the code.

Two new annexes have been added to the 2009 edition. It is important to remember that annexes are not a mandatory part of the code but are explanatory for the purposes of illustrating the requirements of the code. For example, Annex B, “Elevators for Occupant-Controlled Evacuation Prior to Phase I Emergency Recall Operations,” addresses the use of elevators before the operation of smoke detectors in elevator lobbies, machine rooms, or elevator shafts if provided due to the presence of sprinklers in the shaft. Remember, elevators are automatically recalled by the smoke detectors. They are not required to be recalled automatically by operation of a building’s fire alarm system. So the elevators will operate and can be used to evacuate persons with mobility impairments after the building fire alarm has activated. This annex is written in mandatory language so that a jurisdiction can adopt it if it so desired. This annex may also be helpful for building owners and operators to use in developing an evacuation strategy for people with mobility impairments in their buildings.

Annex C, “Supplemental Evacuation Equipment,” is included for informational purposes only. It provides guidance on the use of supplementary evacuation equipment from buildings.

I will discuss some of the key changes to the Life Safety Code in future columns, but in the meantime, I would urge you to read and evaluate these two new annexes carefully. Again, they are not mandatory parts of the Life Safety Code, but they may provide useful information for anyone who refers to the code.

Chip Carson, P.E., is president of Carson Associates, Inc., a fire engineering and code consultancy. He is a former member of NFPA’s Board of Directors.

Reprinted with permission from The NFPA Journal - (April 2009 issue) The National Fire Protection Association


Fire Service Renaissance

Research renaissance

As the results of current research initiatives are implemented, they are expected to spark a technological and intellectual rebirth of the modern fire service in the coming years. For complete lists of current FP&S-funded research projects,

By Casey C. Grant, P.E.

It’s an overcast spring day sometime in the near future, and heavy smoke billows from the top-floor windows of a three-story brick industrial building. Arriving firefighters immediately deploy to their specific assignments. But these firefighters have a few technological advantages over today’s crews.

Gone is the single-bottle self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) used by their predecessors. Instead, these firefighters use flat, flexible backpack-style units that are half the size of the old bottle units, but hold twice as much air. These firefighters also use sophisticated electronic equipment that is light-weight and durable. In addition to two-way radios, their electronics communicate real-time data on the environmental conditions inside the building, the location and physiological status of each host firefighter, and even a three-dimensional blueprint of the building based on the paths the firefighters travel. All this information is relayed to a team working with the incident commander (IC).

This scenario isn’t as far off as you might think. All this technology exists today, with prototypes under development that represent a spectrum of potentially dazzling new technologies that could benefit the U.S. fire service and other emergency responders. Research funded through the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and other sources is part of an ongoing process that promises important improvements in firefighting equipment, fireground tactics, and firefighter safety and health. As the results from these research initiatives are finalized, delivered, and implemented over the coming years, they are expected to spark a technological and intellectual rebirth of the modern fire service.

One important player behind this technology initiative is the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which has been part of DHS since 2003. “I had pushed the DHS science and technology department to invest in fire service technology,” says Dave Paulison, former U.S. Fire Administrator and FEMA Administrator, and current senior partner at Global Emergency Solutions, a fire and rescue services consulting firm. “Although this has been an uphill battle, the department has responded with millions of dollars in research.”

These research dollars have resulted in breakthroughs in SCBA and firefighter locator systems that will save lives and reduce injuries of firefighters, Paulison says.

Revolutionary advances for the fire service are arguably few and far between. Most noteworthy advancements, such as two-way radio communication and SCBA, are now decades old, and more recent improvements, such as personal alert safety systems (PASS) and improved personal protective equipment (PPE), do not rise to the same measure of historical significance. Compounding this issue is the fact that the fire service is deeply rooted in tradition. While this brings a certain stability to the profession, it can also mean that the fire service is sometimes slow to embrace improvements.

However, even the most old-school skeptics would have a hard time denying the promise of many of the projects currently in development. That work is part of a rich knowledge transfer cycle between the worlds of science and practice, stimulating back-and-forth dialogue involving multiple research and fire service partnerships. “This research is an important investment in the future of the fire service, and the safety of the women and men who work in it,” says Brian Cowan, director of FEMA’s Assistance to Firefighters Grants program (AFG). “It is truer than ever that the ‘future is now.’”

The makings of a research boom

A host of events have resulted in new funding for this work, including policy shifts in the aftermath of 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina. Certain trends are also helping create an environment for change, such as the increase in fires involving the wildland/urban interface (WUI), which have grown in magnitude and frequency in recent years. But it’s not just disasters fueling this change. Advances in communication and incident-command technologies, some of which are already being used by the military and other agencies, also show promise for the fire service.

Perhaps no influence, however, is greater than the funding initiatives generated in the past decade by DHS through FEMA’s Assistance to Firefighters Grants (AFG). When it was instituted in 2000, the AFG office that administers the funds was part of the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA). With the creation of DHS in 2003, FEMA/AFG was no longer linked with USFA, although the two units continue to work closely together.

With more than $4 billion awarded since its inception, the AFG today is a multipart effort. AFG, also referred to as Fire Grants, devotes the vast majority of its resources to helping U.S fire departments meet their equipment and training needs. In 2008, the AFG office received 21,015 applications from fire departments nationwide for $560 million in grants.

Also part of AFG is the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response, or SAFER, program, which strives to increase the availability of trained frontline firefighters. Last year, 1,314 applications requested $190 million in SAFER grants.

The AFG component most directly responsible for the current research renaissance is the Fire Prevention and Safety Grants (FP&S) program. FP&S originally emphasized prevention and safety programs, but research and development (R&D) studies were added to its portfolio in 2004 to fund clinical and behavioral studies, database systems, and technology and product development that researchers hope will reduce morbidity and mortality among firefighters. In 2007, when numbers were last available, FP&S had provided $34 million in grants, with the R&D component receiving $11.6 million, or less than 2 percent of the AFG’s overall annual total.

Although the first reaction from some fire service personnel when they hear that $11.6 million has gone to research is to argue that the money should instead be used to buy more equipment, others recognize the significant long-term value of this research activity. Among them is Russ Sanders, secretary for the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC)/NFPA Metro Chiefs, who says that the more the fire service learns about this research, the more it appreciates the need for R&D activities to improve firefighter safety. “The virtues of R&D investment in the fire service will ultimately become obvious, much like we’ve already witnessed in military and other applications that have strong parallels with the fire service,” Sanders says.

Heart attacks and beyond: Clinical and behavioral research

FP&S research falls into two basic groupings: clinical and behavioral studies, and technology and tactical studies. A number of clinical and physiological-oriented projects directly address topics of specific interest to the fire service and involve some of the world’s top medical researchers. This type of research is critically important because it directly addresses health and safety issues related to firefighter deaths and injuries. It is also of a long-term nature, and it will take time for its impact to be felt and fully understood. This information is providing valuable input to documents such as NFPA 1582, Comprehensive Occupational Medical Program for Fire Departments.

Recognizing that cardiovascular disease is a primary cause of firefighter fatalities, several independent studies are underway at Harvard University School of Public Health, Indiana University, St. Joseph’s Hospital in Atlanta, the University of Illinois, and the University of Pittsburgh. Medical researchers at the University of Arizona, Johns Hopkins University, and the University of Illinois have also begun new projects addressing factors involved in cardiovascular disease, including behavioral risk factors.

Other clinical and behavioral topics range from a study of fatigue and shift work, conducted by Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, to a study that looks at ways to reduce occupational hearing loss, led by the University of California at San Francisco. Other clinical studies include a project at Johns Hopkins School of Public Health that examines the health and safety of volunteer firefighters and a study by researchers at Skidmore College that aims to determine how different types of fitness—aerobic versus strength training—support physiological recovery from firefighting activities.

Greatly enhancing the potential impact of these AFG-supported studies is the fact that they are all undertaken by teams of scientists and members of the fire service, says Dr. Ellen Sogolow, AFG research specialist. “By working as a team, [we make sure that] the studies stay relevant to the priority needs of the fire service,” Sogolow said at the 2008 FEMA/AFG R&D annual meeting. “And when results show success, interventions will be feasible for departments to adopt and implement.”

R&D research teams will deliver findings to the fire service using presentations, news reports, and other venues. For example, Dr. Dave Hostler of the University of Pittsburgh will present an educational program on fireground rehab for the Company Officer Leadership Symposium, to be held in conjunction with Fire Rescue International 2009 from August 25 to 29 in Dallas, Texas. And the Skidmore team plans to produce recommendations for best practices in fire service physical fitness training programs to mitigate the risks of sudden cardiac death.

Some of the clinically oriented studies include a database component and take into account factors such as health history, exercise and activity levels, and other influencing conditions. University of Maryland researchers are addressing the original Wellness-Fitness Initiative programs with the intent of developing a Web-based data system that will help answer questions about health concerns including cardiovascular disease, cancer, and back injuries.

These clinical studies illustrate how R&D activities are focusing on a range of underlying causes of fatalities and injuries, with concomitant development and testing of interventions to reduce threats to firefighters’ health and safety. Not surprisingly, the fire service welcomes these efforts.

“Across the country, firefighters tell us they are excited to participate in these studies because they know their health is at risk and they have questions about their long-term well-being,” says Sogolow. “It is exciting to see the R&D work being undertaken that can be expected to answers those questions.”

Advancing tactics and strategy

Other projects will ultimately allow firefighters to improve their tactics and strategies, and provide helpful information for ICs and others on the fire ground. These projects are expected to provide useful information that will assist with revisions to documents such as NFPA 1500, Fire Department Occupational Safety and Health Program, and NFPA 1670, Operations and Training for Technical Search and Rescue Incidents.

One ongoing project already embraced by the mainstream fire service is the National Fire Incident Near-Miss Reporting System (see This Web-based initiative, administered by the IAFC and Drexel University School of Public Health, provides an extensive database of near-miss case studies alerting firefighters to line-of-duty hazards. The program has become highly popular among firefighters because it replicates on a broad scale the stories shared around every firehouse kitchen table.

Two separate but related projects address firefighter line-of-duty deaths (LODD) in structure fires where wind was a factor. The Polytechnic Institute of New York University is working with the Fire Department of New York (FDNY) and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to provide updated tactical and training information based on positive-pressure ventilation fans, high-rise nozzles, and wind control devices, such as fire curtains and fire blankets, with a focus on wind-driven high-rise fires. Their work included full-scale burn tests in abandoned high-rise buildings on Governors Island in New York City harbor in February 2008, and dovetails with another project conducted by the Fire Protection Research Foundation and NIST, which involved laboratory full-scale burns that provided valuable data for computer models used to predict these hazardous conditions.

Another project, led by Underwriters Laboratories (UL) in partnership with the IAFC, the Chicago Fire Department, and Michigan State University, addresses questions related to engineered lumber and time to collapse. Tests have been conducted on roof and floor assemblies using current and traditional construction materials and methods to predict and calculate the anticipated time to catastrophic structural collapse.

Several more projects focus on new technologies that researchers hope will prove revolutionary, rather than evolutionary, for the fire service. Three independent projects undertaken by separate teams from Worcester Polytechnic Institute, the University of Maryland, and the University of California-Irvine focus on GPS tracking systems. These projects are developing important new three-dimensional, real-time tracking systems with eye-catching features, such as precise spatial location, firefighter posture identification and physiological condition, and building environmental conditions. One of the projects can also “construct” walls, floors, and other building features based on the paths travelled by individual firefighters.

One particular technological innovation that may soon appear is a smaller, lighter, flexible, longer-lasting SCBA. While the name of the device has not yet been determined, it’s typically referred to as the “flatpack” or “firepack.” This effort, led by the International Association of Fire Fighters, uses advanced pressurized container technology that meets or exceeds turnout gear standards and will potentially have revolutionary implications for the fire service.

While the ultimate benefit to the fire service of all this research is difficult to predict, we are clearly positioning ourselves to take important strides forward. If the opportunity presents itself, we must be ready to speak in support of the currently available resources or the potential progress will be short-lived. “It’s just a start,” says former FEMA Administrator Dave Paulison, of the current research efforts. “We must continue funding this type of research if we are truly committed to ‘Everyone goes home.’”

Casey C. Grant is program director of the Fire Protection Research Foundation.

Other players, other research

The research funded by FEMA/DHS represents an impressive and arguably unprecedented display of fire service organizations partnering with world-renowned research institutions. But it isn’t the only fire-service-related research going on. A variety of federal agencies are participating, too, some in conjunction with FEMA/DHS funding and some through other channels.

For example, the National Personal Protective Technology Laboratory (NPPTL) at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health is studying personal protective technology ranging from respiratory protection to dermal protection and injury prevention. NPPTL is conducting significant work to improve firefighter PPE such as SCBAs, turnout gear, and emergency medical protective clothing and equipment. Additional NPPTL projects focus on heat stress, hydration, and other physiological stress issues for fire and emergency services personnel. “The…laboratory [is] providing quality science to the standards-setting process that will improve the occupational safety and health of firefighters and emergency services personnel,” says Les Boord, NPPTL director.

Elsewhere, research by the Building and Fire Research Laboratory (BFRL) at NIST ranges from situational awareness technologies such as thermal imaging and RFID tags to the examination of nanocomposites and phase change materials to improve the next generation of firefighter PPE. A clear example of the direct value of this research is the proliferation in today’s fire service of thermal imaging cameras, a technology derived from military applications. NIST’s work has clarified the operating parameters required by firefighters and provided clear direction for manufacturers to design, build, and make available this new technology. It also serves as the basis for a new standard, NFPA 1801, Standard on Thermal Imagers for the Fire Service, due to be issued in December 2009.

Reprinted with permission from The NFPA Journal - (April 2009 issue) The National Fire Protection Association


From the Chair - The National Fire Protection Association

By Thomas W. Gardner, P.E., FSFPE

Hazardous Areas

Hazardous areas continue to be a subject of much discussion in health care facilities. Section 18.3.2 and Section 19.3.2 “Protection from Hazards” of the 2009 edition of NFPA 101®, Life Safety Code®, require protection by various methods. However, the code clearly states that the list of hazardous areas it provides is representative, not exhaustive. Without an all-inclusive list, many code users ask how to determine whether a space should be considered a hazardous area.

The NFPA 101 Technical Committee on Health Care is not trying to be elusive on this subject. Rather, the committee has made these provisions mostly performance-based because a hazard depends on many factors, such as use, occupancy, protection, and processes, so a complete list of all situations is not possible.

Why provide a partial list of hazardous areas? Determining what is a hazardous area includes some intuition, common sense, training, experience, and, perhaps, a formal risk assessment. The list in the Life Safety Code is meant to help a facility, its fire protection engineer, and the authority having jurisdiction (AHJ) make the correct determination. The facility or its fire protection engineer usually makes the initial determination. If the AHJ disagrees, he or she may require more supporting data, such as a formal risk assessment of the hazard.

Certain factors that must be considered when evaluating the hazard level of a space include the nature and quality of the combustible materials involved. The space should be considered a hazardous area if the materials it contains represent a significantly higher hazard than would otherwise be typical in the general areas of the facility because of their basic nature; the storage or configuration method; and the quantity of combustible materials involved. Are the materials flammable liquids or plastics? Are they folded or loosely piled, stored on a shelf or in a bin, in or out of a cabinet? All such factors must be taken into account.

Are all hazardous areas equal?

A material that is considered hazardous in one occupancy is not always considered hazardous in another. For example, a typical medical records suite in a hospital is considered a hazardous area unless it is extremely small. Such storage would be considered a normal or even a light hazard in a warehouse because a warehouse does not contain infirm persons who may be incapable of self preservation and because they have a much higher level of active fire protection due to the large amount of combustibles they contain. In accordance with NFPA 13, Installation of Sprinkler Systems, a patient-care smoke zone in a hospital is considered a light hazard occupancy that would typically have a sprinkler design density of 0.1 gallons per minute/square foot (0.4 liters per minute/0.3 square meters). By contrast, a warehouse could have sprinkler design densities six or more times that of a hospital, depending upon the items stored and their storage configuration.

Another example is a soiled linen room. Table in the 2009 edition of the Life Safety Code requires rooms containing more than 64 gallons (242 liters) of soiled linen to be considered hazardous. But how about soiled linen in a coin-operated laundry? A coin operated laundry would generally be considered a business occupancy, and Sections and state that, in business occupancies, “hazardous areas including, but not limited to, areas used for general storage, boiler or furnace rooms, and maintenance shops that include woodworking and painting areas shall be protected in accordance with Section 8.7.” As in the health care occupancy chapter, the business occupancy chapter refers the reader to the base chapter, Section 8.7, for treatment of special hazards. Unlike the health care occupancy chapter, the business occupancy chapter does not have a substantial list of representative hazardous.

I would not consider soiled linen in a coin-operated laundry to be hazardous because it is not a significantly higher hazard than would otherwise be typical in the general areas of the facility. Again, there is a difference in general population and required sprinkler density. Typically, the required sprinkler density for the patient-care area is 0.1 gallons per minute/square foot (0.4 liters per minute/0.3 square meters)and 0.15 gallons per minute/square foot (0.6 liters per minute/0.3 square meters)for the laundry.

Severe hazards

Spaces can be considered a hazard, even a severe hazard. For example, Table in the Life Safety Code has two entries for laboratories: those employing flammable or combustible materials in quantities less than those that would be considered a severe hazard, and those that use hazardous materials that would be considered a severe hazard.

According to Paragraph A. of the code,  “the hazard level of a laboratory is considered severe if quantities of flammable, combustible, or hazardous materials are present that are capable of sustaining a fire of sufficient magnitude to breach a 1-hour fire separation.”

The Life Safety Code Handbook indicates that ordinary combustibles and flammable liquids with wood-equivalent fuel loads in the range of 5 to 10 pounds/square foot (2 to 4.5 kilograms/0.09 square meters) are sufficient to threaten a 1-hour-rated fire separation and are considered a severe hazard. Severe hazards in health care occupancies may include, but are not limited to, laboratories, paint shops, chemical storage areas, and wood shops if they contain appreciable quantities of flammable or combustible materials.

Sections and to Section 8.7 in the 2009 edition of the Life Safety Code give the AHJ the opportunity to regulate any space judged to represent a significantly higher hazard than most spaces. Section of the 2009 edition of the Life Safety Code Handbook states “the authority having jurisdiction is responsible for determining the criteria that define a hazardous area.” The handbook commentary does not indicate that the AHJ defines a space as hazardous; rather, the AHJ determines the criteria that define a hazardous area. This certainly is a technical subject that the facility’s fire protection engineer should evaluate and negotiate with the AHJ.

Reprinted with permission from The NFPA Journal - (April 2009 issue) The National Fire Protection Association

Electrical Contractor Magazine – June 2009 issue


 BY diane kelly

Protection off the Job

Teach employees to stay safe after hours

Much is done to keep employees safe on the job site. Safety signs are posted, guards and barricades are erected, protective equipment is issued, and the work area is kept as safe as possible. At home, safety is up to the employee.

If an employee gets hurt off the job, the employer is affected through days away from the job and insurance costs. It isn’t easy to replace good employees, even for a short time. The National Safety Council reports that, in 2006, off-the-job (OTJ) injuries and deaths cost at least $223.7 billion in lost wages, medical and hospital costs, and administrative expenses associated with insurance.

Unfortunately, even workers who are well trained in safety, with good safety habits on the job, seem to forget some or all of that training once they leave the job site. A recent study revealed that accidents away from work accounted for more than 70 percent of all deaths and more than 55 percent of all injuries to employees. OTJ safety needs to be seen as an extension of the on-the-job safety training. Until recently, off-the-job safety was not considered part of an employer’s business concerns. It is now seen to help employers manage their healthcare costs and profits and to help save the lives of their employees and families.

The rates of deaths and injuries are so much higher off the job because safety rules are in place in the workplace environment and typically are followed, and workers are performing tasks that they are very familiar with on the job. The off-the-job environment tends to be much more relaxed. Safety rules are ignored or unknown, and people are performing tasks of which they may not be familiar.

An OTJ safety program can help to reinforce the idea that the safety training at work can help keep employees and their families safe when they are not at work. This type of safety program also lets workers know that their health and safety off the job is as important to their employers as it is on the job. It is important when developing an OTJ plan to avoid appearing heavy handed. The plan should encourage employee participation, not mandate it, as is the case with an on-the-job safety plan. Delivering the program as a series of suggestions and helpful hints may help to increase employee buy-in. When implementing such a plan, it is crucial it not appear that the employer is dictating how employees behave during their personal time with family.

As with any training program, there are two possible approaches to take when presenting it to your employees: the subtle approach and the not-so-subtle approach. With the subtle approach, information can be distributed through payroll stuffers, e-mails, a work site poster or articles in a company’s newsletter. Information is distributed to people to use as they see fit, with little fanfare.

The not-so-subtle approach offers a more assertive and effective way to implement such a safety program and involves others in the organization. It can be started by announcing and explaining the program in a toolbox talk. This talk should include the rationale behind the program (to keep employees safe during off hours), a description of what the program will provide to the employees, and a summary of what will be accomplished through the program.

Seasonal safety topics relevant to the employees should be presented regularly. Possible topics could include the following:

Safe use of recreational vehicles, such as ATVs, motorcycles and jet skis

Preventing sunburns

Safe use of power tools, such as mowers, trimmers and chainsaws

Preventing frostbite

Winter driving

Holiday safety

Hunting safety

It is effective to use some of the same methods that were used in the subtle approach to disseminate the program’s information. However, this is only a skeleton program, and it will be necessary to add depth to it, requiring more time and money. But like an on-the-job program, an OTJ program will reap both financial and goodwill benefits for the employer.

One possible way to round out the program may be to provide personal protective equipment to the employees that may have weekend projects planned. This can be a simple as providing safety goggles and earplugs, but the offer reinforces the need and importance of using this equipment.

Another possibility is to compile a library of owner’s manuals for common power equipment. Often, the manuals are not seen after the day the equipment is brought home. By having access to this information, an employee can rediscover how to safely operate a particular piece of equipment.

An employer also can provide training for seasonal topics. As summer approaches, a good training topic could be the importance of sunscreen or water safety. In the fall before leaf cleanup begins, training the employees on ladder use and back safety can be helpful.

An OTJ safety program can pay dividends to all those involved, but it needs to be sustained and hold employee interest. This can be done best by including the employees and through constant reminders of the need to stay safe at all times.

Reprinted with permission from Electrical Contractor Magazine – June 2009 issue  also visit

KELLY is a safety and health specialist with Intec, a safety consulting, training and publishing firm that offers on-site assistance and produces manuals, training videos and software for contractors. She can be reached at 800.745.4818 and Joe O’Connor edited this article.


President’s Desk

by rex a. ferry

Of Course I’m Going to NECA 2009 Seattle. I Can’t Afford Not To!

Once a year, every participant in the electrical industry is invited to attend the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) Trade Show and other educational offerings that are held in conjunction with NECA’s members-only national convention. If there was ever a year when you simply must attend, this is it.

I know this may sound counterintuitive, given the lingering recession, but that’s precisely the point. In the words of NECA CEO John Grau, “We’re pulling out all stops to make sure that the program is relevant and useful in today’s economic climate.”

NECA’s Convention and Trade Show always has been focused on providing the information and tools we contractors need to cope with challenges and take advantage of current and emerging opportunities. This focus will be intensified at NECA 2009 Seattle.

If you attend, you will learn about methods to maintain and protect your business in these tough times. You’ll also learn about new product innovations and industry resources that will help you survive the economic downturn intact and thrive when the economy picks up again, as it undoubtedly will.

And, if you want to move your business in a new direction, the Washington State Convention and Trade Center in Seattle is definitely where you need to be Sept. 12–15. Multiple opportunities to learn about alternative energy solutions and sustainable electrical construction will be presented every day throughout NECA 2009 Seattle. Think of your trip there as a starting point.

And, think about this: Just one new idea or just one bit of information that you bring back and apply in your business could more than pay for your trip.

Yes, I know I’m not the first to say it. It sounds like a cliche, but many sayings became cliches because they contain often-repeated truths. I can attest to the truth of that statement from my own experience.

It also has been my experience that one of the most valuable benefits of attending NECA events is the opportunity to network with fellow members. Well, NECA 2009 Seattle presents opportunities to network on a grand scale.

Of course, I’m looking forward to hearing about what conditions are confronting electrical contractors in other regions of the United States and how they are responding to changes in the contracting market. This kind of exchange can provide insights we can use at home. But NECA 2009 Seattle will do more than bring contractors of all sizes and specialties—from all across the country and beyond—together for a few concentrated days of education and information exchange in one corner of the Northwest. You’ll also find manufacturers, utilities, inventors, distributors, consultants and engineers represented there. In fact, they will be represented in great number. More than half of the available exhibit space had been booked by early spring, long before show registration was even open, and requests from potential exhibitors continue to roll in. You can see a list of those who already have committed to be there at Note that it contains the names of dozens of our leading industry partners who all are eager to demonstrate their newest and best products and services and to learn how they can meet our current and future needs.

They are certainly not letting any recession jitters hold them back. And neither should you.

The NECA Show demonstrates that connectivity has more than one meaning in the electrical industry because our annual exposition is the product of a symbiotic relationship. Exhibitors are drawn to it because they know it is where they will meet leading electrical contractors, and contractors go because we know we’ll meet outstanding people from the organizations that make our companies work.

So, I’d like to stop right here and thank all our show exhibitors, especially those who will be sponsoring events and amenities there. Thanks, in particular, to NECA’s Premier Partners—Graybar, Milwaukee Tools and Westex Industries. These three industry leaders are visible throughout the year, but they have made a special commitment to make NECA 2009 Seattle the best showcase of innovation and talent for the entire electrical construction industry.

I also would like to thank all electrical contracting professionals, NECA members and nonmembers alike, who make the NECA Convention and Trade Show a success just by being there. I’m looking forward to a big turnout for the biggest event on America’s electric power and cabling industry’s calendar.

Register today at, and be there in September. You’ll be glad you did!

Reprinted with permission from Electrical Contractor Magazine – June 2009 issue  also visit

Rex A. Ferry, President, Neca



BY stan shook

When to Bid the Job

How to prevent number shopping

The competitive bid market always has been a brutal arena, even during the best of times. Winning a contract takes more than having a tight estimate or the best lighting fixture quote. Even having the lowest price won’t ensure you get listed by the general contractors. Too many times we hear a common sob story from electrical contractors: “I think my number got shopped.”

Price shopping can be the result of various scenarios. The most common ones are that you released the bid too early, you bid to the wrong clients, and you never forged a strong relationship with the GC.

The GC says he needs his price early!

Maybe he does. Maybe he doesn’t. The question is whether other electrical contractors are submitting their prices early. If not, why should you?

Now, perhaps a certain GC will protect your price. Maybe that GC will make note of who helped out and who didn’t. Maybe this matters even if your price is not the lowest. Maybe the GC will “owe you a favor” and tell you if your price is the winning number. Maybe the GC will shop the job to you.

You must have a bid-day strategy that addresses this issue. You need to determine to whom you are going to bid early and who won’t get an early price, as well as who you will give your best price to and who will get your highest price.

Don’t wait too long, either. There is a fine line between holding your price until just the right time and waiting too long. Imagine hearing your low price didn’t get used because you submitted it too late.

Build solid relationships

Estimating is not just about pricing projects. It also is about servicing your clients, the GCs. You need to build solid relationships, getting to know them and ensuring they know you. The more a GC knows and works with your company, the better it will feel about your pricing and the more it will trust your price, even when it is high.

Make sure the GC knows you are 100 percent focused on the project and know everything about it. Discuss your proposal with the GC before the bid. Help it understand how your bid is put together, and ensure it knows about the work you have included that the competition may have excluded. Eliminate any and all surprises. GCs like this.

Bid only to GCs you can trust

Don’t bid to everyone on the bidder’s list just because they are on it, especially if you care about the GCs you are going to work under contract with. I have heard nightmare stories about the contractor who had a terrible GC and is losing money every day. This often is because the EC bid a project with a GC it had never worked with before.

Is it unavoidable? Do you have to bid to every GC on the bidders list? Any one of them could be the winner. And how frustrating is it to hear that you actually had the lowest electrical price, but the one GC you didn’t bid to won the job?

Do your prebid homework and find out as much as you can about every GC you plan to bid to. Check the license status of each; find out if there are any liens levied against the company or if it is being sued. Call some of your EC allies to see if they ever have worked with this GC and what their experiences were. See if their prices have been shopped. The more you know about the entity to which you are bidding, the better you can judge the price you are willing to give it.

Be wary of false advertising

Be careful when a GC tells you your price needs to be lower. Ask questions: How much lower? How do you know the other price is good? What is it based on? Whose price is it? How did they estimate the project? What does this “lower price” include? What does it exclude?

Here again, much depends on how much you know and trust the GC with which you are working. Getting this inside information can help you win the bid. But it also can be a trap by a GC who is just trying to lower his bid by using you. Of course, if you play the price shopping game, you must accept the possibility you may be on the losing side.

Take control

We work in a competitive, harsh and often unfair industry. You must take control of your bid and do everything you can to ensure your estimating efforts are protected. I am always amazed when I hear a contractor gave his price out early. On one hand, it is good to know he had the bid together hours or a day before the official bid time. Still, I can’t help think he basically wasted his time (and money) by giving out his number too early, only to risk having it shopped to the competition.        

Shook is the president and chief estimator for his estimating company, TakeOff 16 Inc. He has worked in the electrical construction industry for more than 18 years. Reach him at 707.776.0800 and

Reprinted with permission from Electrical Contractor Magazine – June 2009 issue  also visit



by jim HAYES

Cabling for Wireless

How to design and install cabling to support state-of-the-art wireless, an absolute necessity in today’s enterprise network

The corporate network is undergoing a major shift in emphasis that impacts cabling tremendously. The “traditional” corporate network that uses fiber optic backbones and category-rated unshielded-twisted pair (UTP) copper to the desktop is becoming a dinosaur. Today’s users expect mobility, demonstrated by the sales of laptops exceeding desktop computers and the popularity of mobile platforms, such as the Blackberry and iPhone, which approach laptop capability. And mobility means wireless.

Many workers carry laptops to meetings, on coffee breaks, while waiting in the airport and on airplanes. Network users don’t want to be tethered with patchcords; they are annoyed enough to have to plug in to recharge their batteries.

Wireless has certainly had its growing pains. Wi-Fi, as the IEEE 802.11 standard for wireless networks is popularly known, has been widely adopted, but has always been challenged to provide adequate coverage and bandwidth. Cellular data networks provided much better coverage than Wi-Fi but have been very slow.

But with the advent of the latest version of Wi-Fi, 802.11n, updated cell-phone data systems and the likelihood of success for WiMax, users now have adequate wireless bandwidth practically everywhere, even for video conferencing. Many mobile devices are now being offered with several connection options, usually Wi-Fi and cellular to make them usable practically anywhere.

Not every employee needs or wants a laptop or needs to be mobile, of course. Accounting, customer service, production control and engineering, for example, are still users of desktop computers. Engineering, in particular, often requires large amounts of bandwidth for big computer-aided design (CAD) files, necessitating the highest bandwidth—gigabit Ethernet as a minimum—be delivered to the desktop, often on fiber instead of copper. Most everyone else is adequately served with fast Ethernet (100 Mbps) over cables rated Category 5 or higher.

The network of the future certainly does not include replacing cabling every couple of years with another UTP upgrade. Most users today already have networks with fiber backbones and desktop connections on Cat 5e or Cat 6 and a few Wi-Fi access points. If 10G needs to be delivered to the desk, it’s probably going to be on fiber, not just for the bandwidth, but also for the lower power consumption of fiber optic links.

The future appears to include more mobile applications. With fiber backbones already installed in most large corporate networks, adding adequate wireless access is easy, and of course, upgrades are simply a matter of replacing wireless access point hardware; no recabling is required.

Wireless is not wireless

Although we talk about wireless becoming the network connection of choice, we sometimes forget that wireless is not wireless. In reality, the wireless connection only replaces the patchcord, which would otherwise connect the user into the network, with a radio link. That radio link connects the mobile device to a wireless access point (AP) that is hardwired into the cabling network.

Every AP must have a connection into the network, either over UTP or fiber. APs are available with either type of connection, and fiber optic versions are not that much more expensive. The choice between copper and fiber depends on the location of the AP, possible electrical or wireless noise interference issues, and the necessity of powering the AP over the cabling, which requires copper.

Designing and installing the premises cabling network to accommodate wireless APs requires consideration be given to several options that may be new to cabling installers and may require the expertise of specialists. Beyond the usual concerns of installing proper pathways and supports for the cables and ensuring UTP cable runs from telecom rooms to workplace outlets are kept under 90 meters, the needs of wireless add new concerns for cabling. These include how much bandwidth must be supplied to the AP, where should wireless access points be located, how will the AP be powered and how will security be managed.


It is important to provide good wireless coverage in the work area. This involves more than just where wireless access points are located. Networks share bandwidth, so the service provided depends on how much bandwidth is available and how many users are sharing that bandwidth. For wireless, this involves several issues, including how many users are being served and the physical layout of the building and its occupants.

The 802.11n standard is rated to provide up to 600 Mbps of bandwidth under ideal conditions, and we all know how often you have ideal conditions. In reality, it provides about 90–100 Mbps reliably. For an 802.11 AP to work efficiently, it needs a reliable gigabit Ethernet connection. In the past, most users just plugged access points into any port in a telecom room, so it was sharing bandwidth with other users. To get best performance, a wireless AP may require cabling back to the main equipment room rather than to an overworked switch in a local telecom room. This needs to be decided by the customer’s networking expert before the cabling design is done.

Location, location, location

In an office, APs generally are installed above the ceiling or on a convenient wall. An AP is rated to cover a certain radius, but it may not work to just install APs with overlapping coverage. The coverage any AP provides depends on the environment—as objects such as walls, office partitions, desks and even people absorbing and reflecting wireless signals—affect the coverage. Complicating this is that 802.11n actually can use reflections as signal paths.

Manufacturers’ AP coverage diagrams often look like a nice circle (see figure), while actual coverage is generally much more irregular. Now specialists can bring instruments into the office and make tests that will determine where to locate APs for best coverage. These tests are important to ensure proper wireless functionality in any office or building space.

Power for wireless

Every AP needs power. Providing AC, conditioned and uninterruptible power as needed by all network components is one solution. The ability to power wireless APs over unshielded-twisted pair copper wire has been developed for components, such as APs and voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) phones, but may not be possible in all applications. The current version of power over Ethernet (PoE, IEEE standard 802.3af) only provides about 13W power, which while adequate for early versions of Wi-Fi, may not be enough for all manufacturers’ implementation of 802.11n APs, which basically includes six separate transceivers to deliver higher bandwidth.

A higher power version of PoE, IEEE 802.3at, delivers almost twice as much power, but still may be inadequate for 802.11n APs and may cause heating of the UTP cable, which degrades the performance. Some vendors have developed 802.11n APs that will operate on the original PoE, some have suggested installing a separate UTP cable for power, and others prefer local AC power, which allows an option of copper or fiber to the AP. Before the final design is finished, the issue needs to be settled as it affects the need for AC power and/or the cabling required.

Security in wireless networks

A big issue for wireless networks is security. Any wireless access point is a potential security breach because anyone with a Wi-Fi device, not just a laptop, can access the network. You can create password access, but any wireless access point allows hackers an opening to crack your network security, sometimes even from outside your premises. Security experts warn that many security breaches are inside jobs, so multiple levels of security are desirable.

Wireless access usually allows both employees and visitors to connect on your network. When a company’s wireless network must also accommodate visitors, they generally should only be allowed direct Internet access, not access to the company’s network.

Securing a wireless network properly requires completely isolating the wireless network from the company’s wired data network, including using separate cabling and special wireless routers. Cabling to the access points connects to special routers in the telecom rooms that connect to special servers over backbone cabling that is independent of the wired data/VoIP network. That means the IT manager now has two independent cabling networks to worry about, in addition to protecting his or her networks from encroachment by other applications, and the cabling installer may have two independent networks to install.

Before the installation

Wiring for wireless involves different concerns from simply building a wired network to every desktop. In order to build a cabling system to provide the required service, it is necessary to consider issues well beyond the traditional cabling standards, e.g., keep Cat 5e/6 runs under 90 m (280 feet), don’t kink cables and don’t untwist pairs more than 13 mm (½ inch).

To cable wireless correctly, the cabling contractor needs to confer with the company’s networking manager and security person, if they have one; the manufacturers of the wireless APs; and even the electrician. This will insure proper design of an optimum cabling system to support quality wireless service. visit

HAYES is a VDV writer and trainer and the president of The Fiber Optic Association. Find him at

Reprinted with permission from Electrical Contractor Magazine – June 2009 issue  also visit


Life safety systems

By Thomas P. Hammerberg

Alarming Versatility

Smoke Detectors serve many purposes

Every smoke detector serves a different purpose. The primary reason to install them is to provide a means of early warning in the event of a fire. Smoke detectors may be used for detection of fire, to protect equipment or to connect with building functions. Spot-type detectors protect open areas; a projected beam line-type smoke detector works in an atrium; duct smoke detectors control air-handling systems.

Area smoke detectors primarily operate on either the ionization or photoelectric principle. The principle for ionization smoke detectors was invented in the late 1930s, but the first commercial detectors were not readily available until the 1950s. They operate by using a small amount of radioactive material, americium 241, to ionize the air particles within the detector. Smoke particles will attach themselves to the ionized air particles and reduce current flow. Once the current flow falls below a preset level, the detector will alarm. Ionization smoke detectors are good for detecting fires or dark smoke. However, they also are very susceptible to ambient conditions, such as cooking fumes, excessive airflow, exhaust or other fumes.

Photoelectric detectors have been around since the 1970s. They are more effective in detecting smoldering fires and are used more extensively than ionization detectors. However, they are more susceptible to false alarms triggered by steam or airborne dust or dirt. It is important to understand the type of fire and smoke that may be present, so the right type of smoke detector will be selected for the application.

Smoke detectors in commercial applications are connected to fire alarm systems to provide audible and visible notification for early warning and to control certain building functions to make the facility safer. Smoke detectors may automatically close doors to prevent smoke from traveling from one compartment to another. Slowing the spread of smoke provides occupants more time to exit the building.

Today, the technology has advanced to allow smoke detectors to evaluate multiple conditions, such as the type of smoke as well as heat, before they alarm. Although there are many complaints about false alarms, most alarms are caused by detectors responding to phenomena within their range of operation. If the proper types of smoke detectors are specified and installed, tested, and maintained properly, they provide a reliable means of protection, and the possibility of nuisance alarms is reduced greatly.

A common application is to install smoke detectors in elevator lobbies, machine rooms or hoistways to move elevators to a floor away from the fire in the event of smoke or fire in one of these locations. They also may be used to provide notification to fire fighters of the possibility of a fire in the elevator hoistway or machine room. A light would flash in the elevator car to notify them to exit the elevator before the elevator power is interrupted.

Duct smoke detectors are used to monitor the air conditioning systems in buildings. They are installed in the ductwork of the air handler and may simply shut down the fans upon detecting smoke to prevent distribution of smoke from one area of the building to another. In more elaborate setups, they control the building smoke control systems by opening or closing dampers.

The conflict between the two codes that require smoke detection in air ducts is a problem. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 90A, Standard for the Installation of HVAC Systems, is referenced where the NFPA 101, Life Safety Code is adopted. The International Mechanical Code (IMC) is referenced where the International Building Code (IBC) is adopted. A conflict results when a jurisdiction adopts both codes. NFPA 90A requires a smoke detector on the supply side of air handlers greater than 2,000 cubic feet per minute (cfm) and also one on the return side if the air handler unit is greater than 15,000 cfm and serves more than one floor. The IMC only requires smoke detectors on the return side (the side that draws air from rooms in the building) of units over 2,000 cfm.

Smoke detectors also may be used to protect equipment. In NFPA 72, the National Fire Alarm Code, there is a requirement to have a smoke detector in the vicinity of the fire alarm control unit if the room it is located in is not constantly attended. The purpose is to allow the fire alarm panel to transmit an alarm to the monitoring facility before it is incapacitated by a fire in that area.

The requirement for a smoke detector’s location is in the building, fire and life safety codes. The requirements for a smoke detector’s installation method are located in NFPA 72.

HAMMERBERG is currently the president/executive director of the Automatic Fire Alarm Association Inc. headquartered in Jasper, Ga. He serves on a number of NFPA committees, including the NFPA 72 Technical Correlating Committee and the Protected Premises Technical Committee. He can be reached at

Reprinted with permission from Electrical Contractor Magazine – June 2009 issue

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Codes + Standards

By Michael Johnston

Communications Systems
Grounding Rules

Following the rules pays off

Communications systems and circuits in buildings must comply with the applicable rules in National Electrical Code (NEC) 2008 Article 800. Even though these systems operate at lower energy levels, improper grounding and bonding can result in severe consequences for equipment, property and people.


Grounding, in its simplest form, is the process of connecting an electrically conductive object to ground (the earth). Bonding is the process of connecting conductive objects together to equalize potential differences between them. When something is grounded, it is connected to the planet and when something is bonded to another, they are connected together to electrically become one potential or as close to the same potential as possible (NEC 250.4). These two processes work in unison to provide safety for communications systems and property.

The definitions in Article 100 provide a foundation on which grounding and bonding requirements are built. The term “ground” is defined simply as “the earth.” The term “bonded” is defined as something being “connected to establish electrical continuity and conductivity.” Grounded and grounding are terms defined as “connected to ground or to a conductive body that extends the ground connection.” The term “grounding conductor” is defined as a conductor used to connect equipment or the grounded circuit of a wiring system to a grounding electrode or electrodes.”

Connecting to an electrode

Section 800.100(B) requires the grounding conductor for communications systems to be connected to the same grounding electrode that the building electrical system is connected to. This ensures both systems and connected equipment are at the same ground potential. Attempting to install separate grounding electrodes and not bond them to the power system grounding electrode is not permitted by the NEC and creates unsafe conditions for people and property. A revision in the 2008 NEC requires an “intersystem bonding termination” be installed at the service location for connecting systems covered by Chapter 8. It is intended specifically for connecting communications systems’ grounding and bonding conductors. Section 250.94 requires intersystem bonding terminations provide not less than three means of connecting grounding and bonding conductors of communications systems. Intersystem bonding terminations must be connected to the building power grounding-electrode system, so potential differences between both grounding systems are minimized.

Grounding conductor installation

Communications system grounding conductors must be 14 AWG or larger and be made of copper or other corrosion--resistant conducting material. They can be solid or stranded and must be insulated. Grounding conductors for communications systems should be kept short, and for one- and two-family dwelling installations, they must not exceed 20 feet. An exception permits a separate grounding electrode be installed where the grounding conductor length of 20 feet is exceeded. In this case, any separate electrode must be bonded to the power system grounding electrode for the building with a copper or equivalent conductor sized at a minimum of 6 AWG [800.100(A) (4) and 800.100(D)]. Connections to grounding electrodes for communications circuits must meet the requirements in 250.70. Listed connection means must be used and installed according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Surges and lightning

Using the same grounding electrode as the building electrical service keeps the conductive parts of communications and equipment at or close to the same ground (earth) potential in normal operation. In abnormal events, such as surges related to lightning strikes on or close to the building, the objective is to keep conductive parts of electrical power systems and limited energy communications systems at the same potential while these potentials rise and fall.

This minimizes the possibilities of destructive flashover events within electronic equipment and between electrically conductive parts and equipment. If the grounding conductors of a communications system are connected to an electrode separate from the building power service grounding electrode, a lightning event on or near the building can cause conductive parts of equipment in the power system and the communications system to rise at different potentials, creating possible flashovers that can damage equipment or even start a fire.    

JOHNSTON is NECA’s executive director of standards and safety. He is former director of education, codes and standards for IAEI; a member of the IBEW; and an active member of the NFPA Electrical Section, Education Section and the UL Electrical Council. Reach him at

Reprinted with permission from Electrical Contractor Magazine – June 2009 issue

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BY edward brown

Security Trends

Networking is the way of the future

My visit to the International Security Conference (ISC West 2009 in Las Vegas) was a good chance to get an idea of some of the trends in our business. I sensed some running themes in what I saw and heard. The trend is to treat security devices as part of a system rather than as isolated components. The sure sign was the large number of exhibits that were showing digital products and proclaiming their ability to be networked.

There is a logical need for security systems to be digital and networked, and many manufacturers are developing the technology that can make that happen. Take surveillance, for example: the more areas that can be monitored, the more useful the system. However, for the system to be really useful, it needs to be managed. The more pictures taken, the more difficult it is to make use of all the information. One solution is to use hardware and software that enables one to see video from many cameras at the same time—even better is the ability to zoom in on one particular camera when something peculiar is happening in that scene. Even more sophisticated is using video analytics, which lets one track a person, vehicle or package from one camera to another. To make this still more useful, one should be able to communicate with, for example, a security guard to be on the alert for a particular person or vehicles.

And then there’s the problem of storing data. The more there is, the more difficult and expensive it is to store. And once one has solved that problem, how is that data accessed in a useful way?

Wall-to-wall surveillance

The MegaView Wall from Mitsubishi, Marietta, Ga., was an impressive display of multiple images. The MegaView Wall is constructed from a pile of “projection cubes” that can be interlocked together. The projection system is designed so that the image reaches to all edges of the screen. The overall effect is of one large screen. This can be used with software from companies such as ICX Technologies, Victoria, British Columbia, to intelligently display and control a range of surveillance devices. ICX’s Cameleon allows an end-user to control the interface between cameras and displays to respond to the operator’s commands and/or can be programmed to be triggered by alarms. And the software can integrate analog as well as Internet protocol (IP) components, a practical and important feature. Each video module can be programmed to be part of a single image, providing a high-resolution picture from a particular camera that then can be partitioned to provide a matrix of images from a selected group of cameras.

OnSSI’s (Suffern, N.Y.) Ocularis software performs similar functions, all over a standard IP network. It too allows triggering by an alarm or in conjunction with an analytics module, and views can be programmed to be triggered by events, such as intrusion alarms or motion patterns of people, vehicles and objects.

Another player in IP security systems integration is TAC, North Andover, Mass., which, along with Pelco, Clovis, Calif., is part of Schneider Electric. The combined video management systems link multiple cameras per alarm or point for automatic display. An end-user can also view live or recorded video on-demand for any alarm or event.

The software from companies such as ICX, OnSSI and TAC also provides a means for accessing stored data based on parameters, such as date, time or camera location.

The more security and access--control systems can be software-driven and connected to standard IP networks, the more versatile they become. A software--driven system enables security personnel to manage complex systems of cameras and sensors by means of devices such as laptops and touchscreen monitors. In order to help users migrate to these IP systems, manufacturers are producing devices and software compatible with analog and digital data. For example, Axis Communications, Lund, Sweden, and Pelco produce video encoders that enable integration of analog cameras into an IP-based system by converting analog to digital data. Ioimage, Denton, Texas, offers video encoders that have built-in analytics software.

Bosch Security Systems, Lancaster, Pa., among others, is certain that the future of video monitoring is with IP systems but recognizes it will take years before IP overtakes the market for analog devices. One example of this recognition is the company’s new Divar XF hybrid recorder, which supports eight or 16 analog cameras and up to eight H.264 digital video streams. H.264 support was incorporated in many of the new products at the show. It uses the latest compression technique, going beyond JPEG and MPEG and allows greater bandwidth and minimizes storage requirements, thus enabling the storage of higher resolution images at lower cost.

I noticed most companies acknowledged the need to help users migrate from analog to digital at their own pace. I think this bodes well for sensible growth in the security market.      

BROWN is an electrical engineer, technical writer and editor. He served as managing editor for Security + Life Safety Systems magazine. For many years, he designed high-power electronics systems for industry, research laboratories and government. Reach him at

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Reprinted with permission from Electrical Contractor Magazine – June 2009 issue

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Time to Get Real About Combatting Counterfeits

By Rex A. Ferry

Since May is National Electrical Safety Month, I thought I’d take a break from writing about the economy and, instead, devote a column to what we, as contractors, should do to protect our workers and customers from electrical hazards. Even so, I couldn’t get away from the subject of economics entirely.

The Electrical Safety Foundation International (, which is co-sponsored by the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA), spearheads the annual observance and has launched its “Buyer Beware Anti-Counterfeiting Campaign” as the focal point of National Electrical Safety Month 2009. NECA, as well as the National Association of Electrical Distributors (NAED), the National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA), Underwriters Laboratories (UL) and leading electrical manufacturers have likewise stepped up efforts to combat the counterfeiting of electrical products and components because we realize it is a vast and growing problem.

Here’s where that unavoidable subject comes up: The U.S. Chamber of Commerce estimates that product counterfeiting costs the U.S. economy between $200 billion and $250 billion annually. According to a recent report by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the value of all seized counterfeit products for the year ending Sept. 30, 2008, was nearly $273 million, an increase of 38 percent over 2007. This figure includes a 43 percent increase in seizures of counterfeit electrical products, with a total value of about $23 million. And that’s only the counterfeits headed off through sporadic inspections at U.S. ports—an exceedingly small portion of the total that make their way into the supply chain.

Another perspective on the economic connection comes from ESFI President Brett Brenner. He said the current financial crisis has “essentially acted as a catalyst within counterfeit consumer electrical products. People are going to great lengths in search of a bargain, favoring alternative online vendors, which is where these substandard products are likely to be found.”

However, Gallup Consulting and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce estimate that 64 percent of counterfeit electrical goods in the United States are purchased from legitimate shops and retailers. If you are ever tempted to save $1 on a $2.50 part or even a much more substantial amount, whether from a known dealer or an online source, you could be in big trouble if you purchase a counterfeit that malfunctions and causes harm after you install it—millions in fines for you personally, millions more for your company, even prison time.

And, of course, that is not the most severe consequence.
I like how John Maisel, the publisher of this magazine, characterizes electrical counterfeiting: “This is a multimillion-dollar problem. Not only is there a loss of dollars for manufacturers, electrical contractors and distributors, but there is a loss of image, as well,” he said. “More important than either of those is the loss of life when a knockoff product causes a fire or electrocutes a homeowner.”

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, there are more than 50,000 home fires each year across the nation that directly involve an electrical malfunction, causing more than 2,800 fatalities, countless injuries and $1.4 billion in property damage. Circuit breakers that fail to trip when overloaded, extension cords that overheat, ground-fault circuit interrupters that prove useless, and other electrical products and components produced by counterfeiters spark a lot of these fires. Counterfeiters use inferior materials and avoid key manufacturing steps, so they can sell their junk at prices no genuine manufacturer can beat.

For all these reasons, last fall, NECA adopted a standing policy opposing electrical counterfeiting. The proclamation was followed by direct action within days when this magazine, published by NECA, and NAED’s TED magazine launched the Anti-Counterfeit Products Initiative. It is endorsed by both organizations, as well as NEMA and UL, and sponsored by Siemens, Schneider Electric/Square D, Alcan Cable, Graybar, Fluke Corp., Eaton, Southwire, GE and NSi Industries.

The effort includes the establishment of a Web site (, which provides a lot of information on how to spot counterfeits and what you can—and must—do to halt their proliferation. A recording of the in-depth Webinar presented last month by ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR and TED magazines is included. I urge you to explore this site in its entirety, study it in detail, and put its recommendations into practice immediately. A casual look is insufficient. Electrical counterfeiting is a deadly serious business. Each of us should make it our business to help end it for good.  

Rex A. Ferry, President, Neca

Reprinted with permission from Electrical Contractor Magazine – May 2009 issue

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Is the Economy the Copper Stopper?

By Mike Breslin

When scrap copper prices hit an all-time high last spring at more than four dollars a pound, it was a golden age for thieves. Those peak prices were thought to have been driven up by market speculators, but with the economic crisis, copper and other metal prices have dropped precipitously. Many recyclers believe that scrap copper is now in the more realistic trading range of $1.40 to $1.70.

Lower copper prices are good for electrical contractors, but stopping the theft is in everyone’s best interests. That is what recently prompted electric utilities in Georgia to band together and offer a $500 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of people involved in copper theft. Copper thefts from substations, utility poles and transmission lines are a growing problem for the utility industry. Thefts threaten the reliability of the electric system, but more importantly, damaged lines pose a danger of electrocution to anyone in the area, especially utility workers and electricians, not to mention the thieves themselves.

The U.S. Department of Energy estimates copper theft costs our economy more than $1 billion a year. That’s not just the commodity value of the stolen metal. It includes collateral damage from ripping out wires, pipes, fixtures and equipment. The number of vacant, foreclosed homes has exacerbated the problem. Copper thieves hurt the many parties involved in new construction, and that ultimately hurts electricians.

The Georgia utilities are aggressively working with law enforcement agencies and scrap recyclers to apprehend the perpetrators. This reward is one tool to encourage public assistance and will be paid to anyone who provides information that leads directly to the arrest and conviction of someone involved in metals theft from a utility property in Georgia.

Anyone who observes suspicious activity around an electric substation or other utility facility is asked to get a physical description of the alleged thief, the vehicle being used, the license plate number and call a statewide hotline, 877.732.8717. If a theft is in progress, the witness should notify 911 first and then call the hotline. It remains to be seen if other states will follow suit.     

Reprinted with permission from Electrical Contractor Magazine – May 2009 issue

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NFPA 72 Nears Membership Vote - Are you ready for the challenge?

By Wayne D. Moore

Next month at the NFPA Fire Safety Conference & Expo, the 2010 edition of NFPA 72 will be voted on by the National Fire Protection Association  membership. The code is on a typical three-year cycle. Similar to most other codes, such as the National Electrical Code (NEC), you expect some changes, especially to accommodate technical advancements and new technology. However, this edition of NFPA 72 has been changed radically and will require some study before you will feel comfortable installing fire alarm systems under its requirements.

The new name—National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code—is a clue to some of the changes. There are three new chapters: Chapter 24, Emergency Communications Systems; Chapter 12, Circuits and Pathways; and Chapter 21, Emergency Control Functions and Interfaces. This month’s column focuses on Chapter 24. I will address Chapters 12 and 21 in future issues.

The new Chapter 24 provides the requirements for Emergency Communications Systems with a total of 20 pages of material, including the annex. The major difference, of course, is that the code now covers more than just in-building fire emergency voice/alarm communications systems (EVACS) and requires much more in terms of system performance requirements.

For the first time in the code’s history, combining or integrating in-building fire EVACS with other communications systems, such as mass notification, public address and paging systems, is now allowed. In addition, again for the first time, certain mass notification messages can take precedence over a fire alarm signal. Fire alarm signals must take precedence except where mass notification messages, as determined by a risk analysis, are deemed to be a higher priority than fire. A terrorist event is one example.

With the rise of these concerns, people demand actionable information in real time. As a result of that demand, mass notification systems (MNS) have become the norm in all Department of Defense buildings and sites and have begun to make their way into other government and commercial buildings, college campuses and outside environments. Many, if not most, of the MNS have been combined or integrated with the in-building fire EVACS.

The technology is now available to ensure that fire alarm or priority mass notification messages (as determined by a risk analysis) will take precedence over any other announcements from non-emergency systems, such as paging from a telephone system or other public address system. There are speaker systems available that incorporate volume controls and components that will allow occupants to lower or turn off the speakers in their area or office but also are designed to switch the speakers back on to operate at their required power output when the fire alarm system or MNS is actuated. This is one of the safeguards now available to meet the requirements of the code and allow integration of in-building fire emergency voice/alarm communications systems with other communications systems.

These code changes present opportunities for the professional contractor. There is no question that using one speaker system that incorporates all of the requirements of the code instead of a speaker system used with a combination of other communications systems will prove to be financially beneficial for the owner. Not only can there be reduced design, installation and on-going life cycle costs, but regular use of the system for normal paging functions provides an end-to-end test of the audible notification components and circuits. Occupants familiar with use of the system for normal paging also are more likely to be comfortable and proficient in use of the system during an emergency.

In order for the emergency communications system to communicate information properly, it must reproduce the desired messages so that the intended listeners will both hear and understand the message. Intelligible voice messages are a requirement that many designers, installers and authorities having jurisdiction have struggled with in earlier editions of the code. The 2010 code defines intelligible as “Capable of being understood; comprehensible; clear.” And it defines intelligibility as “The quality or condition of being intelligible.”

Although the code does not yet require a system to meet a specific level of intelligibility, it provides a new
Annex G, “Speech Intelligibility,” which details the subject of measuring intelligibility levels. Professional contractors should understand the importance of having a good distribution of speakers rather than trying to use a higher power output of a few speakers.

This opportunity also presents challenges to the contractor. First, you should have a basic understanding of sound and communications principles. Second, you must become familiar with the importance of message intelligibility.           

Reprinted with permission from Electrical Contractor Magazine – May 2009 issue

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Understanding the Unseen

Many safety risks go undetected

By Chuck Ross

The work electrical contractors do every day poses some obvious, inherent safety risks. After all, few jobs are riskier than those involving live electrical wires. However, electrical contractors also face a number of hidden hazards that, over time, could be every bit as deadly as arcing current. Understanding potential dangers in the environment of a construction site could be as critical to your long-term health as a good pair of insulated work gloves.

Know your environment

Environmental building hazards range from the well-publicized to the lesser known. For example, building professionals have long known about the lung cancer risks posed by asbestos. And, because the material was used to manufacture everything from pipe insulation to floor tile, many have become accustomed to testing existing materials and taking needed precautions to limit their asbestos exposure.

Lesser known, however, might be the risk posed by the concrete dust created when such walls are drilled or demolished. A frequent presence in renovation projects, concrete dust can have serious health consequences over time, especially when it is inhaled. Concrete dust contains silica, and breathing too much silica can lead to lung disease.

“That could pose some problems for electrical contractors in those locations,” said Jerry Rivera, National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) safety director. “It’s a known carcinogen. If an employee is exposed for a substantial period, they could face cancer down the road.”

Similarly, broken compact fluorescent lamps pose mercury hazards. Energy--efficiency upgrades are becoming an important part of an electrical contractors’ workload, with lighting improvements usually at the top of the list. Workers may be handling large numbers of  such tubes. The lamps are safe when intact, but can release dangerous mercury if broken.

“They need to be managed with care,” said Joe O’Connor, president of Waverly, Pa.-based Intec, a safety training and consulting firm. “Electrical contractors need to make sure that, if they drop a box of lamps, they are very careful about how they handle it.”

Should the lamps break, O’Connor said, workers need to take care not to stir up the resulting dust. The site should be cleaned using a shop vacuum equipped with a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter and a sealed container. Procedures also need to be in place for safely emptying that container and disposing of the resulting hazardous waste.

Know the rules

Such procedures are a big part of environmental safety on a job site. Both electrical contractors and the general contractors for whom they may be working bear responsibility for keeping their employees safe, according to Roger Brauer, executive director of the Board of Certified Safety Professionals. This organization, based in Savoy, Ill., manages the certification of Certified Safety Professionals (CSPs) and Construction Health and Safety Technologists (CHSTs), who have become important members of many building teams.

A safety professional may be someone who works only on safety issues, or he or she may be an electrician or other building professional who has received specific safety training. Having a trained safety professional on-site, regardless of the individual’s background, may be a requirement in some larger projects.

“For a site with a very large work force, being on-site at all times may be necessary,” Brauer said. “The size and complexity-—in terms of hazards, especially—are often used to define the need for a full-time safety person.”

Know what you’re working with

Safety also needs to be a part of the project-planning process, O’Connor said. This should begin with a preconstruction/demolition review of current site conditions, along with an understanding of the work you will be doing there and the products you will be using. He said manufacturer safety data sheets (MSDS) are an important resource because they provide extensive information on possible hazards and remediation.

“Do an inventory,” O’Connor said. “Try to find out what you’re getting into before you begin.”

He suggested contractors consider what substances and equipment will be used, as well as potential exposure risks, early on.

Rivera emphasized the importance of MSDS information to everyone on the job site.

“It’s a great source of information,” he said. “Electrical contractors should always verify the MSDS and communicate the known hazards, and how to counter the hazards, to employees.”

In larger jobs involving a number of different construction disciplines, this kind of information is even more important, O’Connor said. Just as building systems can interact or interfere with each other, the products and processes used by different trades can combine in dangerous ways.

“The regulations require that, at some point, the general contractor and the subcontractors have to sit down and exchange their MSDS,” he said. “Let’s say I’m bringing ammonia, and you’re bringing a bottle of bleach. We need to take a look at that and make sure we’re storing our chemicals in different locations.”

Rivera agreed with O’Connor’s recommendations and emphasized the importance of communicating with the general contractor to ensure working conditions remain safe for the electrical contractor’s employees. The overall project plan, beyond just the products different trades might be using, also must be a part of this conversation, he said.

“The most important source of information is the general contractor,” Rivera said. “As employers, we need to ask the questions.”

These questions include an examination into when various trades might be working in the same space. Such advance planning could prevent dangerous scenarios that otherwise might be overlooked, Rivera said. He offered the example of a mechanical tradesman welding in a building shaft, while an electrical worker is installing wiring several floors above; this creates a potentially hazardous situation. In this case, the contractor’s employee could be exposed to noxious, and possibly deadly, welding fumes.

“It’s important to consider not just our scope of work, but what others are doing around us,” Rivera said. “Each one of those trades has their own risks associated with them.”

Potential environmental risks and contractor responsibilities also can extend to the broader community in which a project is located. Not only must contractors protect their employees against dangerous exposures, they also must ensure their work doesn’t endanger residents or workers around the project. For example, lead and asbestos dust cannot simply be vented outdoors and ignored; these materials must be captured and handled as toxic waste.

Baseline regulatory requirements for these practices begin at the federal level but can be superseded by state and local laws. Contractors may not be aware of all their responsibilities if they only rely on federal guidelines.

“I believe a lot of [contractors] are ignorant of the regulations or the requirements,” O’Connor said, adding that enforcement can be a haphazard affair. “Because a construction site is temporary, there’s basically no evidence of what went on.”

Know the signs of trouble

Given construction’s transient nature, monitoring environmental safety should become a part of every electrical contractor’s job, not just the managers. Hazards may be invisible, so all workers must remain aware of their surroundings and watch out for coworkers who may ignore signs of potentially serious problems instead of seeking help.

“I think there’s an underlying culture; these are tough guys,” Rivera said, noting that symptoms could include strange behavior or multiple workers breaking out in rashes. “The safety professional has to be made aware of that; you’ve got to keep your eyes open.”

And this need for contractor team members to watch out for each other raises an even larger issue for Rivera: the need for all those on a job site to make safety a personal responsibility. Even if a project has a full-time safety professional on-site, that doesn’t mean others on the job can let down their guard.

“Safety is everybody’s responsibility,” Rivera said. “Anybody in an organization can raise their hand, and the employer has a responsibility to conduct an assessment. The only way a safety professional works is with the cooperation of management and employees.”     

ROSS is a freelance writer located in Brewster, Mass. He can be reached at

Reprinted with permission from Electrical Contractor Magazine – May 2009 issue

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Duct Lookout

Air duct smoke detectors, part 2

By Edward Brown

Duct detectors are installed through the wall of a duct
in order to sense whether smoke is present in the air-circulation system. They have three main functional parts: a sampling tube, the detector itself and an exhaust tube. The length of the sampling tube is chosen to sense across a cross-section of the duct. Insertion of the tube increases the air pressure at its opening, as compared to the overall duct pressure, which is the pressure at the exhaust tube. This positive pressure differential causes duct air to enter the sampling tube, which directs it to the detecting device. The air exits through the exhaust tube.

Two main detecting technologies exist: ionization and photoelectric. According to the System Sensor, St. Charles, Ill., application note, “Duct Application Smoke Detectors,” smoke consists of varying kinds of airborne particles. Each detection technology responds better to certain kinds of particles and different environments.

Ionization-type detectors are best at sensing smoke that contains small, submicron, invisible particles, which generally are found in smoke close to a flaming fire. Photoelectric detectors that use light-scattering technology are best with larger particles, typical of smoldering fires.

Per National Fire Protection Association’s 72, photoelectric detection is the recommended sensor type for duct smoke detectors. NFPA 72, section A.5-16.4.2, states, “In almost every fire scenario in an air handling system, the point of detection will be some distance from the fire source, therefore, the smoke will be cooler and more visible because of the growth of sub-micron particles into larger particles due to agglomeration and recombination. For these reasons, photoelectric detection technology has advantages over ionization detection technology in air duct system applications.”

The detectors should be carefully set up for the average normal conditions existing at their location in the heating, ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC) system. The unit is set for the normal background particle level and then triggers when the air particles reach a preset threshold level. The detectors are quite sensitive to small changes in particle concentration. In addition, one should consider the airflow patterns in a particular duct system. For example, the concentration of smoke particles can be reduced by clean air from nearby returns in other rooms.

Duct sensors can protect infrastructure and people. For example, they can shut down an overheated fan or, if placed in cooling system output ducts, can save large computer or data storage systems from destruction. However, duct detectors also have their limits. They should not be used as the primary means of fire detection; that should be the job of open-area, spot and projected-beam detectors, as well as heat detectors or software-based video detectors. Primarily, duct smoke detectors are designed to sense smoke and protect building occupants and equipment from its spread. In some cases, they may be used to help evacuate building occupants in the case of a fire, but this is a secondary use.

Duct detectors only can sense smoke when it is being circulated through the forced air-circulation system, but there are times when the fans may not be running. Because they sample large volumes of air from different areas of the building, their placement in the system must be planned carefully. They also must be tested regularly, as contaminated filters can restrict their effectiveness. The NFPA 90A and the International Mechanical Code have specific requirements for placing the detectors that differ in some cases, so consult the legal codes of the locality where the system is being installed.

Alarming requirements

The primary function of duct detectors is to monitor the HVAC system to minimize smoke circulation. Their secondary function is to send an alarm—secondary only because the area detectors are the ones designed to be on the front lines of fire sensing. But things do not always work as designed, so with a function as vital as fire detection, redundancy is a major design principle. For this reason, the codes call for duct detectors to generate an alarm in addition to performing their control functions. There are two basic scenarios; the first is an integrated fire alarm system controlled by a fire alarm control panel (FACP). In that case, the duct detector should signal the FACP that it has gone into alarm mode. This is usually hardwired from an auxiliary contact closure in the detector. If there is no FACP, the duct detector must connect to its own audible and visible alarm, which also must include a trouble light to warn if the detector is not in proper operating condition.

A stand-alone detector typically is integrated into an air-handling device, such as a rooftop exhaust fan, by a manufacturer, who then sells it to a mechanical contractor as a complete unit, whereas a fire alarm system typically is sold to an electrical contractor. So duct detectors often are present in both the electrical and mechanical specs.

Finally, it is important to do regular maintenance, guided both by the manufacturers’ instructions and by codes. Smoke detection systems can be lifesavers, but they must be cleaned and serviced  regularly to work reliably.

BROWN is an electrical engineer, technical writer and editor. He served as managing editor for Security + Life Safety Systems magazine. For many years, he designed high-power electronics systems for industry, research laboratories and government. Reach him at

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Reprinted with permission from Electrical Contractor Magazine – May 2009 issue

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Two for Smoking

Making sense of smoke alarms and detectors

By Allan B. Colombo

One way electrical contractors (ECs) ensure safety is to install smoke alarms in every home they wire. Not only does code call for 120V AC smoke alarms in one- and two-family dwellings, but most local fire authorities also require them.

ECs and other low-voltage contractors should have a fundamental understanding of the differences between smoke alarms and smoke detectors. It’s also important that they understand how they work, how to care for and maintain them, and when it is time to replace them.

A smoke alarm generally is an autonomous device that contains a smoke sensor along with a sounder and power source. NFPA 72, 2007, Section 3.3.180, defines the smoke alarm as a “single or multiple-station alarm responsive to smoke.”

In practice, smoke alarms are commonly powered by house power using 120V AC. A small 9V battery is used for backup power. An internal sounding device alerts occupants when a fire has been detected. In most instances, a tandem line provides connectivity between all smoke alarms in the house. This allows a systems-like response, so when one goes into alarm, they all do.

The smoke detector is best defined by Section 3.3.43 of NFPA 72, 2007. Here, NFPA defines it as “a device suitable for connection to a circuit that has a sensor that responds to a physical stimulus, such as heat or smoke.” The smoke detector has a more exacting smoke sensor than a smoke alarm, making it more selective in what it looks for in regards to airborne particulates, such as smoke.

Smoke detectors are used in system-type environments where power is provided by an external source, and an output connects to an initiating circuit in a fire alarm control panel where it is monitored and acted on when a fire is detected. From here, smoke detectors in a home signal a central monitoring or supervising station (see Section of NFPA 72, 2007).

Alarm and detector upkeep

Maintenance ensures sustainable detection over any fire alarm system’s lifespan. According to Section, NFPA 72, 2007, “Maintenance of household fire alarm systems shall be conducted according to manufacturer’s published instructions.”

In the case of smoke alarms and smoke detectors, there are two types of testing procedures used to ascertain proper operation: functional and calibrated. Either can be used on smoke alarms or detectors.

In a functional test, the technician introduces a known method of activation to see if the alarm/detector will trip. Often, the method used for testing involves an object that the contractor places into or near the detector itself, such as a plastic card or magnet. The unit also may feature a button that, when pressed, will trigger the alarm/detector to perform a functional test on itself.

Calibrated testing requires a special tool be applied to the alarm/detector to determine the operation quality. The result is a percentage that defines just how sensitive the unit is to airborne smoke particulates (see Chapter 10, NFPA 72, 2007).

The device either will work or not; if not, it may be time for replacement. For smoke alarms and smoke detectors, replacement should take place in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions. In the case of smoke alarms, however, there is a specified time limit placed on their use if the manufacturer fails to mention one: “Unless otherwise recommended by the manufacturer’s published instructions, single- and multiple-station smoke alarms installed in one- and two-family dwellings shall be replaced when they fail to respond to operability tests, but shall not remain in service longer than 10 years from the date of manufacture” (Section 10.4.7 of NFPA 72, 2007).

NFPA 72 places a 10-year limit on use  because past data indicates smoke alarms are not maintained as well as smoke detectors. For this reason, the Technical Committee on Testing and Maintenance of Fire Alarm Systems (SIG-TMS) decided that a 10-year limit was in order where none is stipulated by the manufacturer.

Note that this 10-year rule only pertains to smoke alarms, not smoke detectors. Smoke detectors should be replaced when they fail to work properly or cannot be

Reprinted with permission from Electrical Contractor Magazine – May 2009 issue

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CNS – Cabling Networking Systems Magazine from the May/June 2009 issue

Survey Finds IT Spending Still On The Books

Robert Half, research firm poll 270 CIOs across Canada

Despite a challenging economy, 76% of CIOs interviewed recently said their companies will invest in IT initiatives in the next 12 months.

Information security topped the list of projects executives expect their firms to invest in, with 57% of the response, followed by virtualization (36%) and data centre efficiency (33%).

The survey was developed by Robert Half Technology, a provider of IT professionals on a project and full-time basis, and conducted by an independent research firm. It was based on telephone interviews with 270 CIOs across Canada.

"Despite increased budgetary pressures, many companies recognize that investing in IT initiatives leads to improved security, efficiencies and revenues," said Sandra Lavoy, a vice president with Robert Half Technology. "Enhancing IT infrastructure will help organizations better prepare for growth when the economy rebounds." Following are five areas of IT investment that were cited most frequently by CIOs interviewed. The summaries are courtesy of Robert Half:

1. Information security (57%: In any economy, protecting the confidentiality, integ-rity and availability of information is a must-have for companies of all sizes. Technology executives in the business services and professional services sectors cited security most often, with 96% and 88% of the responses, respectively.

2. Virtualization (36%): Added budget pressures are forcing many companies to focus on more cost-effective solutions for servers, storage and networking. Virtualization tools enable greater consolidation, lower hardware costs, and reduced space and power requirements. Four in 10 CIOs at large (1,000+ employees) and 38% of CIOs at midsize (500 to 999 employees) companies plan to invest in this area.

3. Data centre efficiency (33%): Improving efficiency within the data centre to achieve longer-term cost savings is a top priority for organizations pressured to cut back on IT spending. Companies are realizing that by not improving efficiency, it will result in the need for more costly expansions and upgrades in the future.

4. Voice over Internet Protocol (32%): Lower monthly phone bills, greater network flexibility and unified messaging, which allows users to more efficiently retrieve messages, are among the benefits that companies realize when they invest in VoIP technology.

5. Business Intelligence (28%): Companies are investing in business intelligence software that allows them to squeeze greater cost efficiencies from their existing resources and processes, and to identify and mitigate business risk.

Reprinted with permission from CNS – Cabling Networking Systems Magazine from the May/June 2009 issue  “The Pride of Canada”


App Attacks (cover story)

Emerging bandwidth hogs such as video and HPC could kick the industry ahead, particularly in the Category 6a and 40G Ethernet space. Below we chronicle several network and software enhancements to watch.

By Stefan Dubowski

In the past if Tom Huegerich, vice president of business development at network integrator ADC Telecommunications Inc., needed to meet with people at manufacturing facilities, he would book a flight and set aside travel time.

Now, Huegerich is more likely to stage a video conference instead. He certainly is not alone and that could change the game for the network and cabling industry.

Huegerich figures that video conferencing makes sense. It is substantially less expensive than travel, it is less time-consuming, and the equipment is common, so in time he could use it for even more meetings.

"I see that working externally as well, with our customers," he says, adding a generational angle to his assessment: people now entering the workforce often turn to video-based services such as YouTube and video chat in their work and personal lives. "We've given them the tools .... That puts tremendous pressure on the network."

Some say the pressure is rising. According to the Centre for Integrated Photonics Ltd. (CIP Technologies), a U. K.-based network equipment maker, Internet demand is expected to reach 160 Terabits per second by 2010.

That tops network requirements from 1998 through to 2008. Multimedia and online social systems (read: YouTube and Facebook) are the main bandwidth hogs. "The world's consumers are facing a bandwidth famine," CIP said in a press statement.

But in discussions with other industry observers and insiders, it seems CIP might be overstating the case. In fact, many people think we have reached a bandwidth plateau in certain respects and in fact, most LANs have enough room to satisfy users' needs for some time. Still, work is afoot in data centres to beef up capacity to handle new kinds of computer requirements.

Cable installation experts and manufacturers say that in the near term, the sector is doing double duty: helping customers get the most out of the cable plants already installed, and watching the horizon for the next technological boost.

Category 6a out of the bag: Now that Category 6a is genuinely available for people seeking 10G Ethernet connectivity over copper, companies are beginning to investigate it for future needs.

"What's next is for people to start implementing it and getting to the point where the applications are available to make use of its potential," says Rob Stevenson, communications division manager at Guild Electric Ltd., an electrical contractor in Toronto. "For most business applications, gigabit is plenty."

Video could change that. Interactive conferencing sessions can chew through plenty of bandwidth in short order, setting the stage for a shift in the way people consider Category 6a.

"Right now 10G meets a lot of requests for server virtualization," says Paul Kish, the St. Laurent, Que.-based director of systems and standards at cable maker Belden Inc. "Eventually that technology will go to your desktop .... You might have a high resolution outlet to your desktop for video conferencing, and to do the same with other participants 10G would be the one use."

For high-definition video system maker Z-Band Inc., anything to help drive down the costs of HD distribution is welcome. But according to principal and vice president of sales Dick Snyder, these days cost savings come from using common cable technology combined with Z-Band's RF system, which eschews coaxial connections and relies on twisted-pair infrastructure alone.

"We can provide this bandwidth on Category 5e," Snyder says. "We don't need shielded cable, enhanced Category 6a or Category 6e .... We suggest customers put in Category 6." Anything more would be overkill, he adds.

Fiber price issues: While the industry works out the best ways to take advantage of the latest copper cable technology, the sector also waits for critical mass to weigh in on fiber-optic electronics, which continue to be substantially pricier than copper equipment. "It's the laser interface that costs the most money," Kish says.

The price and the fact that copper cables have advanced well beyond their humble telephone roots put fiber on the back burner for companies seeking LAN enhancements.

But for companies planning new data centre deployments or improvements, the emerging standard for 40G is noteworthy. Introduced as 802.2ba in 2007, the standard is expected to be ratified by the IEEE in 2010.

"There's a limitation on how fast you can process the information," Kish says. "You can't do it on a single stream of light. The pulses become very narrow and the differentiation is too small in time. Even right now, they're talking about parallel data streams," with eight fibers in a multi-mode configuration (four downstream, four upstream).

According to Kish, 40G will get its first foothold in the data centre market, because data centre operators need speed to handle increasing customer processes for relatively new concepts such as cloud computing, wherein a customer's applications, data and server infrastructure reside offsite.

"There's a genuine need for this in the data centre."

Will fiber ever overtake copper across all networks? That is a question that occasionally crops up and the answers still seems to be "no", or at least, "not soon". Copper keeps getting better, it is relatively inexpensive, and most cable plant operators have more copper infrastructure than fiber in the first place; they will continue to look to standards organizations to help them get the most out of their existing investments.

Category 6a was ratified just last year by the Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA). Although the industry is hearing plenty of noise about Category 7, the European standard, for the most part cable installers and manufacturers seem focused on working with customers towards implementing Category 6a where it makes sense.

"We're seeing on a global basis movement to Category 7 and shielded product," Huegerich says, adding that some multinational clients prefer to standardize on a single cable infrastructure. But for the most part here in North America, "We haven't seen a major move towards that."

In the near term, the industry seems more focused on cable management than ever before. "In the data centre, it's all about space," says Stevenson, a member of the CNS Editorial Advisory Board. "Anything to minimize that and simplify management is coming on strong."

While modularized assemblies have been on the market for some time, the benefit of streamlining 12 separate cables into a single, manageable connector is now proving to be a powerful incentive to invest in the technology. "With some of the large switches, there's quite a congestion of cables in the front," Stevenson says.

Cable dressing would become a non-issue if the move towards wireless networking continues.

"The trend I see is companies running fiber to a floor to an indoor antenna, and I think we're going to see an awful lot of wireless," says Huegerich. "It frees up the end user to move around."

However, do not expect to see wireless completely take over. "A lot of people are wired in and will continue use copper." In his opinion, the industry will increasingly combine fiber, copper and wireless for a good mix of speed, affordability and mobility. "We really see the three melding together in the future."

Technologies to watch include Wi-Max and the fourth generation mobile broadband standard LTE (Long Term Evolution) for wide-area wireless networking. On the local level, IEEE 802.11n continues to provide substantial bandwidth, up to 600 Mbps, but is all that space necessary? According to Peter Sharp, senior telecommunications consultant at Giffels Associates Ltd./IBI Group in Toronto, most users on a wireless LAN seem content with well below 5 Mbps, the speed users usually get by the time the network is done processing the overhead.

"It's tough to say that the advancements in the technology realized over the last couple years are truly beneficial to the typical user," he says. "The cable engineers have worked miracles to get cables to pass 10 gigabits .... However, from the marketing side of the industry they've done themselves a great disservice. Whenever they make progress, suddenly everything they did in the past is no good.

"Where they are making serious progress is being able to deliver more power over the Ethernet connection. We're now getting to the point where we'll be able to power a laptop over Ethernet."

The IEEE is working on enhancing the standard for Power over Ethernet -- 802.3at -- to provide power up to 24 watts per port, which is up from about 13, and better power management capabilities. The 802.3at task force attained project authorization in January 2009.

Sharp is also watching the move away from glass and towards plastic fiber-optic cables, which could do away with the signal degradation associated with glass, and might be more efficient for manufacturers. Whereas glass comes in pieces that need to be put together, plastic fiber could be constructed continuously.

"Because it's the starts and stops that cause the costs, with a continuous process, you're more likely to get the costs down," Sharp says.

The economy: Costs are a constant issue across the entire networking spectrum, especially now that we are in a global financial downturn. Will customers pull back on cable advancements to save money?

Kish from Belden figures organizations might invest even more in networking, because they're looking for ways to offset travel expenses through enhanced video conferencing and collaboration systems. "You'll need better networking to take the place of travel."

Stevenson says he's noticed a lag in Category 6a implementations, but that might have more to do with the price of Category 6a than the state of the economy. "To the extent that 6a is still significantly more expensive than Category 6, companies concerned about expenditures are going to be more reluctant."

Sharp says the economic situation won't have a major effect. Yes, network designers will come under greater scrutiny as people look for cost savings. "But do I think it will cause a correction in the marketplace? Absolutely not. There's a very small percentage of the market that scrutinizes the designs, the requirements the IT group forwards to the facilities group. The vast majority take whatever the IT department says as right, and the IT department will always ask for the sky."

Asked where the inevitable network bottleneck resides today, most people say it's in the "last mile" of connectivity -- the link between the customer's premises and the network service provider's point of presence. But people have different ideas about the applications that could stress this pinched connection down the line.

For Huegerich, high-performance computing (HPC), which sees organizations farming out high-level number crunching to computers accessed via data links, could become the next big bandwidth hog. "That will drive infrastructure investments," he says.

Stevenson says cloud computing could be the technology to watch. "To my way of thinking, the wide area connection is going to be the bottleneck in those situations."

Video, HPC and cloud computing -- any and all of them could be what forces the industry forward into new cable management solutions, 40G in the data centre and Category 6a in the LAN. But no one really knows which application will kick the sector ahead.

Regardless, no matter how big a pipe the industry designs, "there's always someone ready to build something to take advantage of it," Stevenson says.

Stefan Dubowski is a freelance writer in Ottawa. You can reach him via

Robot Telepathy And Other Future Network Apps

Celebrating its 125th anniversary in March, the IEEE brought together technology experts to discuss emerging technologies, including human-robot telepathy, wireless power transmission and efficient mobile phone chips. For hints on the kinds of applications that could one day inform network design and cable requirements, consider these ideas from various IEEE panel members.

Robot-human telepathy: Dr. Miguel Nicolelis and his team at Duke University Medical Center have created a chip that would let the human brain communicate directly with a robot, without touch or a direct line of sight.

Wireless power: Implemented by Dr. Katie Hall, chief technology officer of Watertown, Mass.-based WiTricity Corp., this technology wirelessly transmits power to electronic devices over a one-metre distance.

Longer talk time: Krishna Palem from the George Brown School of Engineering at Rice University has developed a "probabilistic" chip that trades precise calculations for reduced power usage, so mobile phones would need to be charged every few weeks instead of every few days.

Better device interoperability: The "Dynamic Composable Computing" solution from Dr. RoyWatt (Intel Corp.) allows computers to share displays, networks, and processing power, so if your mobile handset didn't have a camera, it would be able to connect to and borrow the camera of another handset, given permission.

CNS Magazine,  May/June 2009

Reprinted with permission from CNS – Cabling Networking Systems Magazine from the May/June 2009 issue  “The Pride of Canada”


BICSI Column - Delving Into Due Diligence

Simply knowing the name and number of a standard does little to improve productivity or protect individuals from liability.

By Richard Smith, RCDD,NTS,OSP; BICSI Canadian Regional Director

Having participated in a number of BICSI conferences, Region Meetings and Breakfast Clubs, I have noticed that in almost every technical presentation there were references to current and proposed information transport systems (ITS) standards. In fact, many presentations are solely dedicated to ITS standards updates.

In articles like this one, I try to interest readers, many of whom are BICSI credentialed members, about technical information I feel is noteworthy to a Canadian audience. What could possibly create this much interest in a topic?

Based on my experience, standards are an informational guide to proper design, installation and testing methods that impact or ensure performance.

Whether you are a supplier or purchaser of ITS infrastructure, due diligence places responsibility on everyone involved in both these activities. My job at Bell Aliant involves interaction with many individuals responsible for various elements of ITS service delivery, ranging from outside plant to the demarcation point, to issues impacting performance and throughput beyond the demarcation point on customer-owned infrastructure.

Simply knowing the name and number of a standard does little to improve productivity or protect individuals from liability. A well-known and respected BICSI Master Instructor often tells his students that the most expensive training you may ever get -- and regret -- can come via a lawyer representing a client for work or services you have or had responsibility for that failed to meet expectations. In my opinion, due diligence goes beyond merely knowing the name and number of a standard.

When you read through ITS standards authored by subject matter experts (SMEs), you will notice they often reference other related standards within the standard.

One might wonder if there is a hidden agenda promoted by a select few who make changes to documents for some self-serving purpose. Actually, most of the people authoring these documents spend many thankless hours compiling information, submitting them for ballot, reviewing challenges and reediting them until there is consensus.

Only after this lengthy process does the standard become approved. Thankfully, this process does exist, and it produces a series of continually updated technical documents. Imagine the productivity and profitability gains that come from being able to simply purchase manufacturer independent, vendor-neutral standards rather than using in-house resources to produce guiding technical documents so that your technicians and designers can perform their duties efficiently.

From my experience, having responsibility for ITS service deliv- ery includes having SMEs with knowledge and copies of current standards available to them. It is easy, economical and simply helps protect you from what could be very expensive training related to due diligence.

One of the newest ITS standards available to the world is ANSI/ BICSI-001-2009: Information Transport Systems Design Standard for K-12 Educational Institutions. BICSI's Standards Committee volunteer gurus, in this case the Standards Committee K12 Subcommittee, and technical/editorial staff, produced this ANSIsanctioned document over the last three years.

Approved on March 13, it is now available for purchase by professionals or others having responsibility or interest in ITS infrastructure within these institutions.

The new standard contains 47 pages of information specifically dedicated to ITS infrastructure for new educational institutions covering Kindergarten through grade 12. It will also allow K-12 institutions to benefit from an ITS infrastructure design that is well planned in advance to support growth and changes that will be required to enhance the educational delivery system.

K-12 facilities typically support voice, data, A/V, security, distance education learning, building automation and access, emergency phones/panic stations, master clocks, multimedia devices, and systems located in administration offices such as general and arts classrooms, physical education facilities, auditoriums, and building maintenance services.

Typical floor plans are included in the standard for various classroom types based on student grade levels and functions of rooms. Guidance to locations considering media, system function, and proximity of originating and terminating equipment is also a focus of the standard. Other considerations are given to accessing, or restricted access to equipment which may be defined on a user bases for students, faculty, administrative, and maintenance resources.

Due to the efforts of many, professionals responsible for these institutions now have a manufacturer-independent, vendor-neutral document focused on ITS infrastructure in K-12 institutions. The intent of this particular standard is to allow ITS infrastructure to support the transmission of data in a timely manner at speeds and volumes unheard of only a few years ago, providing services to devices mostly used by people in these age groups.

A copy of this new standard can be obtained by visiting clicking on the "Order Now!" link.

Reprinted with permission from CNS – Cabling Networking Systems Magazine from the May/June 2009 issue  “The Pride of Canada”


Standards Update - Not All Cabling Is Created Equal

An investment in the network cabling infrastructure will reduce down time and improve data throughput efficiency.

By Paul Kish

I am frequently asked about what category of cabling is recommended for new cabling installations. Is Category 5e sufficient or should I install Category 6 or Category 6A cabling? Furthermore, not all category cabling are created equal.

There are different cable and connector designs on the market that provide additional performance margins beyond the minimum requirements of the standard. What are the parameters that are really important to support your network? For this month's column I will examine the key criteria for making an informed decision about network cabling.

As a prerequisite, the first point is that Category 6A and Category 6 cabling is fully backwards compatible for all applications that specify a minimum of Category 5e or Category 5 performance. The essential elements are the same -- same pin outs, same color code, same nominal impedance of 100 Ohms; it's all the same except for the performance. Higher category cabling provides better transmission performance, better noise immunity and less variance between components.

What are the major differences between Category 6A, Category 6 and Category 5e? From a network application perspective, the key difference is a higher Signal-to-Noise Ratio (SNR), which translates into fewer bit errors and higher data throughput. A white paper by Anixter together with Intel demonstrates the performance gains of Category 6 cabling compared with Category 5e for the Gigabit Ethernet application.

In it, the number of frame errors in a million frames transmitted is used as a measure of performance. The difference in data throughput efficiency can be quite dramatic under certain worst case conditions. Ideally, the number of frame errors should be close to zero. In order to achieve this requires better SNR margin.

Category 6 cabling provides about 12 dB (400%) improvement in SNR compared to Category 5e over the bandwidth employed for Gigabit Ethernet from 1 MHz to 100 MHz. In addition, Category 6A and Category 6 components are much better matched in Impedance compared to Category 5e. For example, the worst-case Return Loss for connecting hardware at 100 MHz is 28 dB for Category 6A (+/-4 Ohms), 24 dB for Category 6 (+/-6 Ohms) and 20 dB for Category 5e (+/-10 Ohms).

Certain applications are less tolerant to frame errors than others. In particular, real time applications such as IP telephony or IP video cannot tolerate frame errors without a noticeable degradation in speech and picture quality.

For data transmission using TCP/IP protocol the effect of frame errors is a slow down in communications caused by retransmission of the corrupted frames. This slowdown in communications is not always noticeable unless the frame error rate exceeds 1%.

Signal-to-Noise Ratio is derived from the measured transmission parameters for a channel as shown in the table above for different noise sources. It provides some interesting insights into the practical realization of a higher SNR. Some sources of self generated noise in a channel can be cancelled out at the transceiver using digital signal processing techniques, e. g., Near End Crosstalk (NEXT), Far End Crosstalk (FEXT) and echoes caused by impedance mismatch between components.

Other sources of noise such as alien crosstalk are not readily cancelable. For all SNR calculations, a lower Insertion Loss improves the SNR by a corresponding amount. For example, a 3 dB lower Insertion Loss represents a 100 % improvement in SNR whatever the noise source.

Another important reason to consider installing Category 6 or Category 6A cabling is higher noise immunity from noise sources in the environment such as radio frequency interference and power line transients. A study conducted by TIA TR 42.3 subcommittee on the effect of power line transients on the operation of 1000BASE-T Ethernet (see Annex C of TIA 569-B standard) showed that the noise reduction factor for Category 6 cabling is one half compared to Category 5e.

In conclusion, the network cabling is the foundation of the network. The lifetime of the cabling is expected to be a minimum of 10 years. The installed cabling needs to provide reliable, error-free transmission under worst case environmental conditions for the most demanding applications.

An investment in the network cabling infrastructure will pay dividends in reducing network down time and in improving data throughput efficiency and the quality of service.

Reprinted with permission from CNS – Cabling Networking Systems Magazine from the May/June 2009 issue  “The Pride of Canada”

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Improve with input

Gain loyalty by surveying customers—and then demonstrating a willingness to listen and respond to their concerns.

by Tom Birdwell

Nearly every business owner knows that effectively servicing customers’ needs is requisite to achieving success. Yet far too often service strategies are formulated based on intuition, or as a reaction to the demands of a few. Unfortunately, in these circumstances it can’t always be known if the decisions being made favor the majority of customers, nor if resources are being invested into the specific functional areas that have the potential to return the greatest benefit. A better solution is to administer an annual customer survey. Through the survey process, a company can gain insight into how it can improve services and, in turn, help make its customers’ lives a little better.

Admittedly, putting together a customer survey might seem intimidating. And, with an abundance of information available from government, industry associations, third-party consulting firms, and the like, one might be challenged to justify the need for conducting an independent survey. The goal, however, is not to replicate what is already known about a particular industry, but to compare and contrast customer experiences and determine how well a company is meeting their expectations.

For example, a survey for a distributor was created to help ensure that

its investment in an e-commerce site would be supported. The company wanted to know what product lines should be featured on the site, whether some customer groups would be more likely to use the site than others, and so on. The insights gained from the survey helped guide the development and marketing of the website and ensured a positive return on investment for the company.

Fortunately, there are a number of web-based services available—including Formsite (, Poll Daddy (, and Survey Monkey (—that provide tools that allow users to quickly harvest, format, and analyze survey results. Raw data can be downloaded to perform statistical analysis, and built-in features allow users to produce charts and graphs to aid in internal presentations and discussions.

Of course, it remains the responsibility of the company sending out the survey to ask effective questions. For this reason, it is advisable to develop them with input from multiple staff members and to test a small group of customers first to make sure that there is no ambiguity or confusion.

It is also important to strive to obtain responses from a representative sample of the customer base. For example, a survey that is limited in scope to the 10 largest customers might have some benefit, but it will probably not provide a complete picture of the company’s overall performance or the opportunities that may be waiting to be discovered.

Incentives should also be considered. People are busy, and a small token of appreciation can go a long way toward rewarding participants for their time and effort. Take care to select incentives that support the company’s brand identity and are proportional to the task—that is, incentives should discourage soliciting responses from persons who are completing the survey simply because they want a shot at winning the prize.

Once the survey is complete, address the responses, both good and bad. Publish the results when appropriate and share findings with customers. You might be surprised at the attention it attracts and how much more effectively advertising works when it includes customer testimonials gathered through the survey process.

Finally, don’t sit on the data; develop an actionable item list and work diligently toward fulfilling a business plan. Companies that use their survey results to demonstrate a willingness to listen and respond to customer concerns will gain their loyalty—and move further along the path of success.

Birdwell, marketing manager at Earnest & Associates, has made presentations to distributors about customer surveys, e-commerce strategies, and related issues. He can be reached at 410-766-6076.

Reprinted with permission from TED - The Electrical Distributor Magazine  or April 2009 issue

The primary source of information for the electrical distribution channel across North America.


Cut costs without cutting staff

Creative strategies to lessen layoffs.

by Stephen Grieco

Surviving tough economic times often requires making difficult decisions. To cut costs, some distributors eventually consider layoffs. This is a logical strategy, given the fact that electrical distribution is such a personnel-intensive industry and payroll is among the biggest expenses for many companies. But while layoffs can be effective in the short term, pink slips can end up costing more than they save.

“If staff is reduced to the bare bones, it is very difficult to maintain the level of service that has become expected of the organization, which only compounds the problem of reduced sales and decreased profitability,” said Kevin Mauermann, director of operations at Tacoma Electric Supply in Tacoma, Wash. “I think when people are faced with the choice of losing their job or taking a pay cut, they would rather take a pay cut.”

Of course, reducing pay is just one answer. Denise Kelly, director of training and em­ployee development at The Hite Company in Altoona, Pa., noted that a distributor’s problems are often unique to its particular situation and frequently require a company-specific solution.

“Often, it’s not about waiting for some fresh, innovative, cost-cutting solution,” she said. “Rather, take a step back and take a look at what worked before.”

During past downturns, The Hite Company opted to stagger hours for staffing at some branches so it could trim payroll and still maintain normal operating hours. Kelly said the company will look at reviving the practice.

“Mandatory vacations and eliminating non-essential overtime are other common cost-cutting practices,” Mauermann said. “Trimming personnel hours can help,” he noted. “If there are few orders for the next day, send warehouse personnel home.”

At Becker Electric Supply in Dayton, Ohio, staff have the opportunity to buy a week of un­paid vacation, said Dianne Becker, marketing director.

More than 40% of the company’s employees already participate in the program through payroll deduction.

“Not only does this save payroll, but it also adds flexibility in the workplace. When business is slowing, and customer service is not compromised, this is an opportunity to strive for a more employee-friendly environment,” said Becker. “Many people want time off, work-life balance, and flexibility to take care of family responsibilities, so it can be a win-win situation.”

Whatever tactic is chosen, it’s important that employees are informed of why decisions have been made.

“Leaving any room for uncertainty about the future of one’s position within the company can have devastating consequences, both short- and long-term,” he explained. In the short-term, that uncertainty could result in a significant decrease in employee morale and lost productivity among workers who are worried about their jobs.

“You must be careful not to create a reason for top-producing individuals to look for employment elsewhere, which can further restrain the ability to rebound with the market while simultaneously strengthening the competition,” Mauermann noted.

Grieco is a Virginia-based freelance writer. Reach him at

Reprinted with permission from TED - The Electrical Distributor Magazine  or April 2009 issue

The primary source of information for the electrical distribution channel across North America.


The true cost of layoffs

Between administrative costs, severance packages, paying for accrued vacation, unemployment insurance, and lost productivity, layoffs can be expensive. Add in future expenses for recruiting, training, and getting a new hire on board—and indirect costs like lost knowledge, skills, and contacts—and there is good reason to look at alternatives.

In October, the Society for Human Resource Management surveyed 633 randomly selected human resources professionals to see what steps, if any, their organizations had taken to cut costs related to staffing. According to the respondents:

• 17% had reduced employee work hours

• 10% had reduced employee

benefit offerings

• 9% had implemented workweek reductions organization-wide

• 6% had offered early retirement to employees

• 5% had reduced salaries

• 3% had implemented salary freezes in the past year—S.G.

Reprinted with permission from TED - The Electrical Distributor Magazine  or April 2009 issue

The primary source of information for the electrical distribution channel across North America.


E-business as usual

When a downturn makes business too costly to be practical, the web can help.

by D. Douglas Graham

Electronic commerce doesn’t cost—it saves. Companies, distributors very much included, are increasingly relying on a web presence to offset revenues lost to the downturn. But e-commerce is no walk in the park. Profiting online demands much in the way of planning, investment, strategy, and maintenance. Here’s a look at how non-electrical wholesalers and manufacturers are using the web to patch the holes in their profit margins and firm up their bottom lines.

The paperless age seems poised to dawn at last, or so suggest recent U.S. Postal Service revenue figures.

“Two years ago, the U.S. Postal Service lost something in the neighborhood of $700 million,” reported Thomas Harpointner, CEO of AIS Media, an Internet marketing and web services company in Atlanta. “It didn’t get any better in 2008. In fact, its losses spiked to around $3 billion. People aren’t buying stamps anymore. They’re doing with the web, email, and texting what they used to do with letters.

“It’s the same in the world of business,” he continued. “Over the course of the last few years, the number of individual commercial mailings circulating through the postal system downsized by billions. Companies have come to rely instead on mass e-mailings, which can be sent and tracked for a fraction of what it costs to do the same with paper.”

E-business is business, according to Harpointner, but it’s taken a while to get here. As recently as a few years ago, most company websites were launched more as educational tools than tools of trade. Customers cruised a site in order to become better acquainted with a given line of product and the company providing it. Purchasing was a third step, usually done in person. Today’s corporate websites have grown into one-stop shops where people browse and buy. Email augments the process, providing a fast, cheap, and easy path to marketing and communication.

All of this was anticipated by the dot-com boom of the 1990s, which crashed into a brick-and-mortar wall. In the wake of the debacle, electronic commerce didn’t go away. It quietly developed in the background—tweaking, improving, and gearing up for better days ahead; and here those days are.

“When the economy tanked, companies were under heavier pressure than ever to deliver tangible results on the marketing projects they were pouring money into,” Harpointner explained. “In a booming economy it’s more important to expand than to save 10% or 15% here and there. When things begin to travel in the opposite direction, the focus shifts from growth to reducing costs and increasing profits. Everybody moved to the web because marketing and selling online is a lot less expensive than doing business pre-Internet.”

Getting with the Program          

The Optometric Extension Program Foundation (OEP) of Santa Ana, Calif., is a nonprofit as well as a distributor of products relevant to behavioral optometry. The foundation wholesales information and minor equipment to doctors within the association and to the public, to a very limited degree. The materials were sold via a mailed catalog until seven years ago when the whole shebang went online.

“OEP’s current website is a virtual edition of the catalog,” said Robert Williams, executive director. “About 12% of our total sales originate with the site; roughly half of it is new business. The site contains a fair amount of public and professional information, and research has determined that most new customers find us through a keyword search. It’s likely then that our online store is stumbled on more often than found via deliberate effort to chase it down. That’s amazing to us, as it demonstrates the extent to which the Internet has evolved into a tool of trade.”

OEP contracted the services of an end-to-end solutions provider to develop and launch its website and e-store. The foundation forwarded photos and descriptions of 150 items in its product line, and the provider did the rest. The initial work was done as a bulk deal, to which regular updates have been added ever since. The foundation promoted the site to members nationwide via email blasts.

apply a few simple rules

E-commerce websites work best when a few simple rules are applied:

First, the site must be built and managed in such a way that browsers want to stay and shop. E-shoppers will flee a site that’s no fun, leaving those that are poorly-managed as nothing more than empty parking lots full of abandoned shopping carts.

Second, a well-executed Internet marketing strategy is essential, for without it a fabulous Internet shopping venue is basically a store on the moon. Customers won’t come just because you’ve provided them a place to spend money—they need to know it’s there.

It’s also vital for the site to have good search engine visibility. Make certain your IT staff or provider knows how to keep your name at the top of the list when users key in triggering search words.

Finally, build a mailing list consisting of e-addresses legally obtained from as many potential customers as possible. Once you’ve got it, structure a series of emails guaranteed to be delivered. This can be harder than it sounds, so it could make more sense to outsource than to try to pull it off yourself.

“When a downturn makes business as usual too costly to be practical, a business and e-commerce website can step in and fill the void,” said Alan Paine, president and COO of Fairchild Industrial Products, a manufacturer of precision pneumatic and motion control products in Winston-Salem, N.C.

“We’ve enhanced and modified some of our online strategies with that idea in mind. Rather than have people jetting around the globe, we’re looking to website tools to provide better coverage and channel the right message to customers. We’ve also added text in languages other than English, enhanced the visuals, and are working to make the site more user-friendly. This process will continue as we go deeper into the poor economy, and we expect it will help carry us through the rough spots to better days.”

Graham is a St. Louis-based freelance writer. Reach him at 314-821-7932.

Reprinted with permission from TED - The Electrical Distributor Magazine  or April 2009 issue

The primary source of information for the electrical distribution channel across North America.


Video over fiber comes of age

Fiber-optic use is expanding into markets other than telecom and data.

by Jim Hayes

In the first few years of commercial fiber-optics use, the primary focus was telecommunications, which made sense, since telecom was the application for which fiber was developed. In fact, the widespread usage of fiber in LAN backbones was nearly a decade away, and fiber to the home was more than 25 years in the future. Still, it may come as a surprise that there were some really interesting applications for fiber developed back then—some of which are still quite popular but not widely known. Take the fiber-optic video link, for example.

At the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, AT&T Bell Labs proposed sending video over optical fibers for TV coverage, but lack of confidence in the new technology led to the installation of common coaxial cables on existing utility poles. When these cables proved to have inadequate capacity, AT&T stepped in, lashed lightweight fiber cables to the existing coaxial lines, and installed fiber-optic converters for video signals. The system worked so well, it became the primary TV feed for coverage.

A fiber-optic cable entrepreneur in Boston solved another nagging problem, this one for remote TV news trucks. The cameraman was tethered to the truck by a short, stiff, and heavy coaxial cable that limited a reporter’s movements covering news. Worse still, the cables were easily damaged and required frequent replacement.

The solution was to convert the camera link to a fiber-optic link, using media converters, which could allow up to several thousand feet of range for the cameraman accompanying the reporter. Being a cable manufacturer, the entrepreneur was able to develop a ruggedized cable that could withstand harsh treatment.

Digital Equipment Company, the minicomputer company later acquired by Compaq (which is now part of HP), had a similar problem in the early 1980s. Its first large graphics terminal required so much bandwidth for the data that copper cables required it to be sited next to the VAX computer it served, an unworkable situation. A conversion to fiber for the link allowed the terminal to be placed anywhere in a building.

In the mid-1980s, I participated in another landmark application. A Dallas CATV company wanted to relocate its antennas out of town for better reception and cheaper real estate, so fiber seemed a good choice. About 10 miles of fiber was laid to connect the antennas to the downtown headend. The application went well and began CATV’s interest in fiber-optic technology.

Surprisingly, CATV acquired its fiber technology from a telecom company, AT&T, and an industrial networking company, Applitek. AT&T developed the high-performance lasers that allowed simple conversion of CATV electrical signals to fiber. Applitek developed the technology for what became the cable modem and allowed Internet delivery over CATV systems.

Video over fiber predates its use in computer networks and other premises systems, and has led to numerous other applications, far beyond the common CATV backbone and the connection of remote CCTV surveillance cameras.

For example, large-screen displays—such as those on the Vegas Strip—are driven from a PC and connected over fiber-optics.

Racetracks pioneered this application. I was involved in a design in the late 1980s where a track installed fiber to the network’s specifications. During televised events, networks would simply bring their equipment, connect to the fiber, and start broadcasting. Large sporting venues are doing the same thing, not just in the big municipal arenas, but also at colleges and universities.

Audio uses

Since the source format of most audio signals is now digital from CDs, PCs, or the Internet, it should come as no surprise that digital audio can be networked just like data. And like any digital signal, it can be transmitted on fiber as easily as on copper wiring.

Digital audio systems were originally developed based on the classic advantage of digital over analog signals—that being the lack of signal degradation from attenuation or interference from other electrical signals. Digital audio offers more flexibility for mixing and control, using inexpensive PCs and audio software. Digital signals also allow multiplexing or transmitting multiple signals over one cable.

For many users, the biggest problem with audio has always been the masses of large, heavy cables needed to carry multiple signals, basically one cable per microphone or speaker. Multiplexed systems reduce cabling mass in two ways: first by multiplexing multiple tracks over one cable, then using cables, Cat 5, or optical fiber—all of which are much smaller and lighter than traditional coax audio cables.

Digital transmission offers another major advantage for large facilities with many high-output speakers. Driving analog speakers at high volume requires lots of power, which requires massive copper cables. This can lead to distortion on long cables. Digital speakers, which convert digital inputs into amplified analog signals inside the speaker itself, are more efficient and provide better sound. They require wiring only for AC power and a signal cable.

Conversion of digital audio to optical fiber offered the same traditional advantages of fiber as well. Digital audio systems in large meeting areas can be easily connected over fiber-optic cable, which, due to its small size and light weight, is easy to install. At many of these facilities, the fiber-optic cables will carry additional fibers for CCTV, computer networks, and other security or control systems.

Like all digital applications, once introduced, the hardware and software rapidly drop in price. Today’s consumer A/V equipment almost always has digital fiber-optic ports using either TOS­LINK or IEEE-1394 standards over plastic optical fiber. Audiophiles often use these connections to maintain sound quality in home theater installations. Even automobiles use systems like these, carrying signals for the radio, CD player, DVD, etc., to digital speakers over plastic optical fiber.

One particularly good application has proven to be installations in historic buildings, where the small size of optical fiber cable makes it easier to install hidden cabling. An optical fiber cable can carry enough fibers for audio, CCTV, and networking in a jacket small enough to easily hide in the woodwork.

While most professional A/V contractors know about professional digital audio systems and how they can be used, typical cabling or LAN installers and end-users are likely not aware of their advantages or even their existence. For those working on a building or remodeling project, it’s worthwhile to bring it to their attention.

Hayes, of VDV Works, has been active in the VDV cabling business for more than 25 years. Find him at

Reprinted with permission from TED - The Electrical Distributor Magazine  or April 2009 issue

The primary source of information for the electrical distribution channel across North America.


Spot the fake—for safety’s sake

by Tom Naber

May is National Electrical Safety Month, and I’d like to take this opportunity to remind you about the dangers of counterfeit electrical products that are infecting many important product categories in the electrical market. More than 1 million counterfeit electrical products have been recalled in recent years, including circuit breakers that failed to trip when overloaded, cell phone batteries that lacked a safety device in the circuitry to prevent overcharging, and extension cords with mislabeled, undersized wiring that overheated.

Counterfeits can be extremely difficult to spot. A counterfeit electrical product could be a knock-off of a name-brand product or one that bears an unauthorized certification marking.

Here are a few tips to help avoid counterfeit hazards:

• Scrutinize the product, the packaging, and the labeling. Look for a certification mark from an independent testing organization, such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL), and the manufacturer’s label. Trademarked logos that look different from usual may signal a counterfeit.

• Trust your instincts. If the price seems too good to be true, it could be because the product is an inferior and unsafe counterfeit.

• Be extra-vigilant when buying from an unfamiliar source or an online retailer. Know who you’re doing business with, and check with the testing labs to ensure they are legitimate. Contact the brand owner manufacturer if you have any doubts that the product is genuine.

• Finally, report safety-related incidents to the manufacturer or to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Counterfeiting is one of the biggest challenges facing the electrical industry, becoming more and more prevalent with today’s global economy. We, as an industry—distributors, manufacturers, contractors, and electricians—must remain especially vigilant and aware of this danger.

NAED has joined forces with key members of the major electrical industry member organizations—including NEMA, NECA, and ESFI—to address the issue of counterfeit electrical products. We want to bring the serious consequences of counterfeiting to the attention of every player in the $130 billion electrical contracting industry. Our goal is to ensure that an anti-counterfeit message is disseminated to the broadest audience possible. For more electrical safety information about counterfeit products, visit

Naber is president & CEO of NAED.  Reach him at 314-812-5312 or

Reprinted with permission from TED - The Electrical Distributor Magazine  or  May 2009 issue

The primary source of information for the electrical distribution channel across North America.


Stake a claim

In a time when there are few bright spots in the market, a boost from Uncle Sam can go a long way.

by Carol Katarsky

In addition to the fact that government construction projects are less likely to be waylaid by economic swings, the recently passed American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 is adding more fuel to the fire in this sector. No matter what you think of the politics behind it, the Recovery Act provides opportunities—not all of which are huge, federal-level projects—for distributors willing to take advantage of them. There are, however, special challenges to keep in mind.

“There are currently in excess of 18,000 local infrastructure projects identified as ‘shovel ready’ that represent an investment of over $149 billion,” noted Joseph Wilson, senior marketing manager at EGS Electrical Group. “These infrastructure projects may be funded quickly through existing federal channels and may start quickly once funding is received.”

While the projects run the gamut of types and sizes of buildings, the choicest projects will go to those positioned to take advantage of new energy projects and/or provide services to existing buildings.

“The government is going to practice what it preaches in terms of using less energy and creating less pollution,” said H.J. Dawes, channel manager for low voltage drives at ABB. “If we’re focusing on reducing electrical use, motors are a key area to look at since they use about 70% of energy. There are lots of opportunities: low-voltage drives, solar energy, lighting—it’s all about using motors more efficiently.”

Lighting accounts for 33% of the electricity used in commercial building, according to the Department of Energy. That points to a need for lighting retrofits as a key part of any energy reduction strategy, according to Colleen Applebaugh, communications specialist at OSRAM SYLVANIA.

“Most lighting projects are beyond shovel ready; lighting retrofits are one of the fastest, simplest ways to start saving cash,” noted Applebaugh. “After years of lagging behind the private sector, public entities at the local, state, and federal level are poised for widespread adoption of these money-saving technologies and systems. In fact, retrofitting public buildings with energy-efficient lighting systems could save taxpayers up to 30% of lighting electricity costs.”

Applebaugh said distributors should be prepared to provide a wide range of energy-efficient light sources, including LED, T5, T8, and ceramic metal halide. “Controls and power supplies/ballasts are also an important part of the energy-savings equation,” she added. “Distributors should strive to offer entire systems to clients that deliver load-shedding capabilities, daylight harvesting technology, and next-generation occupancy sensing.”

On the other hand, Dawes advised distributors to keep an eye on future trends just starting to take hold. “The federal government is planning on getting 25% of its energy from renewable sources by 2025. In the not-so-distant future, government buildings are going to be powered by wind and solar,” he noted. “That creates a lot of opportunity, especially in HVAC and retrofits.

“Energy is moving from a ‘consumption’ activity—where you flip on the switch and use power—to a future where buildings are going to be using some energy but also feeding energy back to the grid,” Dawes added. And government buildings are expected to be pioneers in that trend, providing countless opportunities at every step. “As the growth of wind and other alternative energy sources explodes, they’re going to need people to service them—they’re going to need a ton of wire, etc.,” he said. “Distributors who have service arms are going to lead the way.”

Dawes said that another way to leverage the market is to look at government agencies that are outsourcing services as another vital source of opportunities for distributors, especially those that are vertically focused on a niche. “With a service like water treatment, there can be a lot of business providing things like pumps, pipes, etc.”

Navigate the market

Government projects can include any kind of building project from power plants to schools, hospitals to transportation hubs. So while there’s a niche for every distributor, the unique purchasing process for government buyers can seem challenging to one who’s new to the market.

The first step, as with any new niche, is to do your homework, advised Dawes. “It can be tricky,” he acknowledged. “A distributor new to the market is going to be competing against distributors who have focused solely on this market. Someone looking to break in has to take the time to build those relationships and learn all the regulatory issues. A good place to start is to team up with a non-competitive distributor. A lot of it comes down to old-fashioned networking.”

Wilson agreed that laying a strong foundation is the best way to get in the game. “Distributors, like contractors, should be calling on government purchasing offices and getting on municipal, county, or state agency-approved bidders’ lists,” he advised. “They must also understand that a bid becomes public information once it’s awarded and is accessible, sometimes for a small fee, for review. Many times, there are items needed for a project that weren’t on the bid or RFQ that can be purchased off contract.”

To break into the market, Applebaugh offered this advice: “Understand the technologies that are currently on the market and what they can do for your clients,” she said. “Ensure your product portfolio offers a variety of high-performance, integrated systems. Finally, don’t forget the ‘Made in America’ provision in the stimulus legislation. Sourcing domestically-produced products can provide an advantage with public-sector clients.”

In any government department or agency, the person who is the most important contact may vary by project, Wilson added. Knowing who they are, and what they are looking for, is vital. He noted that purchasing “officials” tend to handle commodity and catalog contracts and focus on the total cost of a purchase. Purchases over a certain threshold (which vary by organization) are usually handled by purchasing managers—and typically require a bid.

For other limited purchases, Wilson advised that the actual end-user for a product will be able to make the buying decision. “In the event that end-users are required to make a purchase over the limited dollar threshold, they would then work with their purchase manager to issue requests for bids,” he added.

Help is out there

While the government market can be a challenging one for independent distributors, there’s no need to go it alone.

supplyFORCE, an umbrella selling group, is currently looking to expand its reach into the government market. The organization handles contract management, such as negotiating pricing and contract terms. Actual fulfillment of orders at the local level is handled by independent distributors who are also owner-members. Now, it’s planning to offer those resources to distributors eyeing the government market.

“We’ve identified the government market as an area for future growth,” noted John Ludlam, executive vice president. “We’re working on getting on a GSA schedule, and we qualify for the small-business set-asides in government contracts.”

The arrangement gives leverage to local distributors that wouldn’t otherwise be able to fulfill the national contracts requested by many government departments. “We can help them maintain and grow the business with companies or organizations that want a nationwide contract,” added Ludlam.

Besides gaining an expanded reach, a collaborative approach offers other benefits, particularly for distributors who are new to this niche. “One of the potential ‘gotchas’ in this market is simply a lack of knowledge in how it’s different from other commercial facilities,” Ludlam said. “Your exposure is different in the sense that, if you get on a GSA schedule, you have to stick to it. It’s not a matter of will you get audited; it’s a matter of when will you get audited—and how well did you meet the requirements.”

But he advised that distributors shouldn’t hesitate to dip a toe in this market’s water—as long as they go in with their eyes open. “There are some misperceptions about how hard it is to work with government buyers,” he said. “Some distributors may think they can go to a half-day seminar and learn all they need to know. Others hear some of the horror stories of what other companies have done wrong, and they think that it’s not worth trying. The truth is somewhere in between. Essentially, the government just wants you to do what you said you would do.”

Katarsky is a freelance writer based in Philadelphia. Reach her at

Reprinted with permission from TED - The Electrical Distributor Magazine  or  May 2009 issue

The primary source of information for the electrical distribution channel across North America.


State of the market

Although the construction projects that provide opportunities for distributors are getting harder to come by across all industries, the outlook is a little brighter in the government/public sector.

Total public construction spending for January 2009 (the latest data available at press time) is down just 2.3% from the previous month—and is up 4.4% from January 2008.

Predictably, some sectors are doing better than others. From January 2009, key sectors on the rise include public safety (up 28.5%), office buildings (26.6%), and water supply projects (18.9%). Education and healthcare also saw modest increases over the year.

Sectors still feeling the pinch include power (down 27.7% from January 2008), as well as transportation and conservation projects.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 will fuel even more projects, providing opportunities for distributors of all stripes. The law provides for approximately $10 billion in federal healthcare construction, up to $8 billion to be used for state-level school building and repairs, $45 billion for various transit projects, and $61 billion in energy—most of it earmarked for high-efficiency and renewable energy projects. In addition, states will be spending much of their stimulus money on similar projects at the state, county, and local levels. —C.K.

Reprinted with permission from TED - The Electrical Distributor Magazine  or  May 2009 issue

The primary source of information for the electrical distribution channel across North America.


Bell’s Journey from Good to Great

After transitioning itself, Bell Electrical Supply sets its sights on becoming a regional powerhouse.

by Michael Martin

There’s an undeniable sense of excitement at Bell Electrical Supply, Santa Clara, Calif. Ask some of the newer employees and they’ll tell you it’s because the company is alive with an entrepreneurial spirit that offers them an opportunity to shape their own future. Ask some of the veteran employees and they’ll tell you it’s because Bell took a look at the harsh realities it faced earlier this decade and made the tough choices necessary to transform, rather than continue down a path that was no longer profitable.

Both answers are reasons why Bell is on an upward swing, growing overall sales from a low of $8 million in 2001 to more than $25 million in 2008. Both answers also stem from a company-wide commitment to follow the philosophies set forth in the book Good to Great by Jim Collins. The book, derived from researching companies that made transitions and then sustained long-term greatness, focuses on those things that are common across industries that produce top performers. In a nutshell, the philosophy holds that companies can only go from good to great by focusing on what they can do best and having the right people in the right jobs.

Starting in 2001, Bell began to redefine itself after losing the major market it served. While no single customer represented more than 5% of Bell’s overall sales, 80% of its sales came from semiconductor manufacturers. When this market evaporated almost overnight, first moving to Mexico and then to China, Bell very quickly learned the value of diversity.

As part of its transformation, within five years, Bell not only entered the contractor market, but also grew the segment from 0% to more than 60% of its sales, bringing more than 20 people in through the construction side of the business. (For more on this turnaround, see “Bell bounces back from the brink” in TED’s March 2008 issue or in the print archive at

“At the time, we were pretty good at selling MRO and OEM customers,” explained Burt Schraga, chairman and CEO. “But, having tried it before, we knew that bringing in one contractor specialist wouldn’t be enough to sustain the kind of success we needed. We had to have a team—not just one person—because success with contractors is based so much on relationship selling.”

When David Wallen, now Bell’s president, joined the company in 2005, he was first tasked to build a new contractor sales team.

“Burt said I could hire four people,” explained Wallen. “He also handed me the book Good to Great and told me to read it before going much further. Over the next five years, we truly changed the makeup of our company. We now have an environment that feels very much like a new business.”

Diversify, diversify, diversify

Northern California has much to offer in the way of market opportunities—it’s a wealthy area known for having deep venture capitalist pockets, launching new technologies, and being on the forefront of environmental issues.

“While we’re really proud of growing our contractor sales, we also realize that the pendulum has swung too far the other way now,” Schraga explained. “We really want our customer mix to be more diversified, with contractor business representing a healthier 50% of sales, and our MRO, OEM, and other markets adding up to the other 50%.

“Right now, for example, more than 200 solar companies have started up here, so even in a bad economy, there are lots of people making the choice to go green,” he continued. “We will have some growth with green—we understand the lighting side, the drives side, and have been doing energy audits for 20 years. And while a lot of retrofitting has already been done here, new technologies will allow for a new round of retrofits. This is an easier sell because they’ve had results with the investment.”

“Technology advancements are extremely important to our company because taking advantage of them at the right time is what can differentiate us from our competitors,” said Doug Robbin, quotations manager. “Take solar, for example—we can hit it strong because we already do everything but the panel. Our business model allows us to adapt very quickly—we know what we’re best at and how we can apply it to these systems.”

He added that, just as importantly, following those core competencies allows Bell to navigate away from what it wouldn’t be good at.

“So even though green initiatives are huge in California—and are important to our business—you won’t find us selling green in the residential market because it doesn’t fit with our core business,” Robbin said. “If we can’t be the best at something or it doesn’t fit with our business model, we won’t try it.”

In addition to energy audits, Bell also does safety audits and other forms of consultative selling. “We’re doing more with customers to find out what keeps them up at night and figure out how partnering with us can help,” explained Farz Narcisso, vice president, industrial sales and marketing.

“Now that we’ve finished blending our sister company, Industrial Control Components [ICC], into Bell, we’re very focused on going after more industrial accounts and municipalities, and partnering with manufacturers to be very specific and strategic regarding the accounts we are focusing on,” continued Narcisso. “We’re truly focused on offering solutions vs. products. When a customer doesn’t know something, and we can save money or make an environment more safe, that’s when we excel.”

No peons, no prima donnas

Diversity doesn’t just show up in Bell’s sales; it’s also revealed in the makeup of the staff.

“In distribution today, the average age of an employee is around or above 50,” explained Schraga. “We have an age range from the 20s to the 80s, and we’re a good reflection of the melting pot of nationalities that populate Northern California. We know we have to make the company appealing to younger generations and multiple cultures and at the same time manage a generation that’s grown up in distribution. There are definitely nuances in managing those different groups, but I think that the diversity has really added to who we are.”

In addition to spanning the generations, Bell’s management team is made up of company veterans and new additions that bring to the table experiences from some of the largest companies in distribution. With experiences learned from working for companies like Graybar, The Noland Company, WESCO, Grainger, Rexel, Home Depot, and Hubbell, this team represents a blend of big-company best practices with a small company’s ability to move quickly.

“For those of us who came from larger distribution companies, the biggest difference is that our size allows for everyone’s voice to be heard,” explained Vanessa Arrington, vice president of operations, who previously worked for The Noland Company and WESCO. “We’re like a large family in that way.”

“The thing that works for Bell is that from the counter to the warehouse to sales, anybody will support any other function to get the job done,” noted Todd Gogan, warehouse and logistics manager and Graybar veteran. “If the counter is backed up or an emergency delivery is needed, sales or management will jump in and help. Everyone here is about whatever it takes to serve the customer well. From top to bottom, inside or outside, everyone has the right attitude.”

“I can honestly say that each and every employee actually cares about doing what’s right,” Arrington added. “They care about what’s right for the customer, what’s right for the vendor, and what’s right for our own company. It’s not just about making the sale; it’s about contributing to a team and knowing that every employee is happy to get up in the morning and come to work.”

“We’ve spent a lot of time getting the right people in the right places,” Wallen added. “We know that any company is only as good as its weakest link. You can have the most talented executive or salesperson in the world, but if an order doesn’t get where it’s supposed to be on time, it doesn’t matter.

“The point is that each and every job here is critical to our success,” he continued. “Our employees get that. It’s taken some time to instill the idea, but we’ve now reached a point where every employee cares and understands that we all have equal roles—there are no peons and no prima donnas at Bell.”

Moving into the future

Bell is now set to reap the rewards of doing the hard work of aligning its resources with its core competencies. From here, the company wants to become a regional player.

“I think ultimately we want to get into the $100 million range and maintain it,” said Wallen. “Of course, we won’t know until we get there, but our success so far has been because of our family culture, which has to be nurtured and sustained to keep an atmosphere where everyone feels connected to each other. That family feeling can go away with size, and we want to avoid that.

“At the same time, we want to be large enough to have critical mass—large enough to have all the manufacturer support we would ever need and the volume dollars to service a larger customer base,” he continued.

“Last year, we finished merging ICC into Bell and relocated it across the street,” noted Schraga. “While that’s been a good thing, right now we need twice the space we currently have. It’s an inefficient miracle that we’re able to do what we do with one warehouse.“

Schraga noted that in the near future the headquarters will need to be relocated in order to establish a service center large enough to grow a hub-and-spoke operation from Santa Clara. “We opened our first branch in Hayward last year, and while the economy has become a factor in the short term, our overall plan would be to open a branch each year around the Bay area to become a regional player,” he said.

“We would love to be the distributor to beat,” noted Wallen. “We want to be the competitor known for raising the bar in the market—for others to think: ‘We’ve got to treat our people as well as Bell does, we’ve got to provide service as good as Bell’s, and we’ve got to be as good of a manufacturer partner as Bell is to compete.’ That’s the dream.”

Martin is publisher of “TED” magazine. Reach him at 314-812-5311.

Reprinted with permission from TED - The Electrical Distributor Magazine  or  May 2009 issue

The primary source of information for the electrical distribution channel across North America.


Surviving the ups and downs

“There was a moment in this economic downturn when everything started to change,” explained Burt Schraga, chairman and CEO of Bell Electrical Supply in Santa Clara, Calif. “That moment was on Sept. 26, 2008, when the Dow went down 800. From that point on, a perfect storm evolved with stocks, banks, and everything else coming to a grinding halt. A lot of projects in our area then—from Google to Sun to Cisco to eBay—all of them put big projects on hold. The credit crunch has really hurt everyone, and like many others, we’ve had to right-size the company.”

“The past four years have been a tremendous time of change here,” said Barbara Silva, credit manager and 29-year company veteran. “Since I’ve been here, we’ve survived three downturns. Now we’re going through the fourth, but the changes we’ve made in the last few years have definitely prepared us for tightening our belt when we need to, and we’re in the best possible shape to weather it.”

Maria Quiambao, who has been with Bell for 24 years and serves as controller, agreed: “We learned some hard lessons during our turnaround, and those lessons will continue to serve us well in this new economic downturn.”

“In a downturn, managing credit becomes all the more important,” noted Silva. “It’s always important, but especially when the economy is down, credit and sales have to work together and not against each other. A sale is a gift until it’s collected. It took some teaching, but all of our salespeople understand that now—we’ve learned to work as a team to make sure we’re getting our money in.

“We also watch things more closely with the contractors because most are small businesses where cash flow is dependent on someone else paying them,” she continued. “At 70 and 80 days we send out an ‘Intent to Lien’ notice; at 90 days we file a lien. Also, at 60 days, we may decide to put on a credit hold. If a customer gets in this situation a couple of times, he or she becomes a credit card customer.”

“We’ve also gotten a lot better at expense control,” Quiambao added, “and always with the goal of keeping our best people employed. I’m really proud that we’ve survived the big downturns—we’re still here. We’ve seen a lot of companies our size go down or be bought, so we are very positive that we are doing the right things to ensure our future.” —M.M.

Reprinted with permission from TED - The Electrical Distributor Magazine  or  May 2009 issue

The primary source of information for the electrical distribution channel across North America.


AIM for better understanding NAED program enhances manufacturer/distributor relationships

by Stacy Brown

From the first internship enacted in 2001 to now, the Advocacy Internship for Manufacturers (AIM) program has provided special opportunities for forward-thinking manufacturers and their distributor partners. Through the program, manufacturers have had the opportunity to intern at a distributor location for one or two days to learn about the daily operations of a typical distributor.

It was a great program that got even better in mid-2007, when Richard Kerman, president and COO of Steiner Electric, Elk Grove Village, Ill., along with his vice presidents, worked closely with Nedra Jansen, Schneider Electric’s coordinator for channel operations, to develop a new contemporary template for the program.

“It was important that we were able to create a template that would take into consideration all of the basic operating functions of a typical electrical distributorship,” said Kerman. “We tried not to showcase how we do things at Steiner, wanting instead to focus on what is common among electrical distributors as a whole.”

NAED is now using the template developed by the Steiner Electric team to assist other distributors and manufacturers in designing internship programs.

Completing the program

The AIM program is very easy to follow and execute. During the internship, distributors prepare a presentation about their various operations and functions; provide a guide or mentor to lead the participant through the training period; and ensure an environment of learning, doing, and involvement.

Manufacturers just need to commit the time and resources required to complete the internship during their normal business hours.

In January, a group of employees from Cooper Crouse-Hinds, Syracuse, N.Y., visited the neighboring Graybar distributor branch.

Before the visit, Russell Hall, director of marketing for Cooper Crouse-Hinds, worked with Mike Carpenter, a branch manager for Graybar, to develop a comprehensive agenda for the internship.

“As I worked with Mike to develop and finalize the agenda, it gave me an opportunity to systematically think through what service a distributor provides to end-customers and how we, as the manufacturer, interact with a distributor to achieve common objectives,” said Hall.

Participants in the program spend time in each of the distributor’s departments, where they are able to talk with employees and discuss what the department does, what goes well, and what causes them the most problems.

“The program gave us a great opportunity to explain our operations as an electrical distributor. Presentations dealt with what we do every day in every department of the branch,” said Carpenter. “We also discussed our interpretation of the distributor/manufacturer relationship and how it is important to our mutual customers.

“The participation and questions by the Cooper Crouse-Hinds team were great,” he added. “As a result, I believe that my branch team learned more on how involved manufacturers are behind the scenes to support distributors.”

AIM also provides manufacturers with the opportunity to share more in-depth product information with their distributor partners.

“It was invaluable to learn the customer side of the business as well as how we, as a manufacturer, can help them to better serve our mutual customers,” said Annette Newlon, channel marketing manager for Cooper Crouse-Hinds, and program participant. “It was apparent that everyone we met with had a great sense of pride and ownership in his or her work.”

For more information about participating in the AIM program as a guest or as a host, please contact Jim Lowe, manufacturers membership services manager, at 888-791-2512 or

Brown is a communications specialist for NAED. She can be reached at

Reprinted with permission from TED - The Electrical Distributor Magazine  or  May 2009 issue

The primary source of information for the electrical distribution channel across North America.


A change in concentration

Anixter shifts its focus to cost and working capital management.

By Joe Salimando

Sam Zell, chairman of Anixter Interna­tional, owns 14% of outstanding AXE common stock. After years of acquiring companies, growing with the datacom business, and posting ever-higher stock prices, Anixter’s stock price has bounced from a two-year high of $88 down to $25 (and then back to $35). Did a company that danced merrily with the boom take a few false steps? Is it just taking a breather? Is the stock mar­ket undervaluing the company? Here’s some insight:

When public companies in distribution announced results for 2009’s Q1, the contrasts were interesting:

• WESCO said sales were down 15.7% and that suppliers had told it that its competitors weren’t doing as well.

• Grainger said the daily sales decline was 10%.

• Anixter put the dip in organic sales at 7%.

That’s a wide range, but the companies aren’t in the same businesses. A longer-term view puts Ani­xter’s accomplishments in focus. The table to the right compares selected data from 2004 with those of 2008. Sales have almost doubled, return on equity has soared, and operating margins are up 150% (and debt has tripled).

Yes, the stock’s price is basically in the same place as it was on the last trading day of 2004. Note that Anixter paid “special dividends” totaling $5.50 per share in 2004 and 2005, so long-term investors have harvested something in the five years.

Here’s something the company in­cluded in its 10-K (required annually) with the Securities & Exchange Com­mission: “While [our] ongoing strategy remains consistent and fo­cused on the long term, the evolving macro environment necessitated a shift in man­age­ment’s immediate focus in the fourth quarter. [We] moved from concentrating primarily on sales and earnings growth to focusing on cost and working capital management.

“This shift in emphasis recognizes that, with appropriate working capital management and adjustments to ad­dress the slower economic environment, the company’s business can be a strong generator of cash.”

About the debt

Many companies with stock in public hands seek to maximize cash flow—something Anixter has been very good at (the $5.50 per share “spe­cial dividend” payouts in 2004-2005 apparently did not hurt its cash position).

Anixter’s statements (to a non-CFO) look like those of a company needing to raise cash. First, there’s $249.5 million in debt that must be refinanced or re­paid this year. In 2010 and 2011, a total of only $2 million in debt is on the line.

Additionally, holders of Anixter convertible notes due in 2033 can, in July, compel the company to purchase (in cash) their notes. In other words, Anix­ter might have to pony up for some or all of these securities: Book value for the notes, the company reported, was $167.5 million.

Salimando, an Oakton, Virginia-based writer, also contributes to Reach him at

Reprinted with permission from TED - The Electrical Distributor Magazine  or  June 2009 issue

The primary source of information for the electrical distribution channel across North America.


The strongest link

Perhaps now more than ever, manufacturers need distributor partners.

By D. Douglas Graham

Wholesale distributors intermediate between the people who make products and the people who use them. They perform

vital supply chain functions—including brand promotion, financing, service bundling, consulting, and market expansion. Despite this, distributors in nearly all industries sometimes find themselves squeezed out of play, particularly when a difficult economy makes profit the prime directive of every transaction. But this month’s lesson from the pipe distribution channel proves that distributors have plenty to offer both manufacturers and customers, even in the worst of times.

“The relationship between man­ufactur­ers and distributors has always been characterized partly by love and partly by hate,” explained Dr. Rick Johnson, president and CEO of CEO Strategist, a Florida-based wholesale consultant that focuses on strategic leadership and sales effectiveness.

“But distributors and manufacturers are not natural adversaries,” he continued. “In fact, they need each other. The whole point of distri­bution is to provide customers with services that manufacturers can’t offer in a cost-effective manner. Distributors form an integral link in the supply chain—a link, one could ar­gue, that keeps the entire chain from falling apart.”

Distributors maximize market penetration via coverage that is more extensive than a manufacturer can profitably provide, Johnson elaborated. They also consolidate trade in that they deal with smaller accounts that would otherwise fall through the cracks because they cannot be cost-effectively managed

by the manufacturer. Many distributors offer extra and client-customized services as well, generating good will and brand loyalty. These and other distributor assets form the building blocks of the distribution value proposition, a prem­ise long understood and appreci­ated by well-established U.S. industries.

“In our business, you’ll rarely find a steel mill muscling in on the territory of a distributor,” explained Bill Buckland, president of the National Association

of Steel Pipe Distributors in Victoria, Texas. “It can happen, of course, but these instances occur mostly when the economy is depressed and the mills are hurting for orders. As a general rule, how­ever, steel pipe manufacturers are happy to pass business along to distributors, and they have been for a long time. Pushing out the mid­dleman has not been a recent topic of discussion within our organization. As a matter of fact, things seem to be moving in the opposite direction, as most mills have consolidated their distributor networks.”

Service Saves

Like all distributors, steel pipe distributors thrive or starve based on the quality of service they provide. In the pipe business, however, the service concept often translates to expedience.

Pipe distributors sell themselves on their ability to speedily fulfill orders at the best price (usually as the result of a bid process.) Timely receipt of materials is nonnegotiable in highway construction and other projects in which time wasted is money lost. Steel pipe distributors must have stock on hand to supply the orders they accept, lest they get stuck with a bad reputation and its subsequent deal-killing repercussions.

“For pipe distributors, service and price are the two pieces that draw or repel trade,” said Steve Beeson, sales man­ager for B&W Pipe, a steel pipe distributor in Katy, Texas. “In some in­stances, service may ac­tually be more important than price, because waiting for pipe can cost you more than what you save by buying it cheap. A con­struc­tion proj­ect loses money when equipment and people are idle. You can’t have workers standing around with their hands in their pockets, so a distributor capable of next-day service will capture the business.”

Selling Solutions

A steel pipe distributor further proves its value proposition via its ability to have product on hand and ship it promptly. While a steel mill may be tempted to circumnavigate its distributor network in the case of a job calling for many thousands of feet of pipe, the vast ma­jority will show disinterest in a project in which the required footage is several hundred. Most mills will not allocate inventory for small orders because they operate on a scale too large for such transactions to be profitable. For these situations, enter the pipe distributor, for whom small orders shipped right now is business as usual.

Pipe distributors also demonstrate their worth through specialization and/or having access to products difficult to come by. One example of the latter is alloys. Oil refineries and chemical plants, in addition to specialty research and manufacturing facilities, often require small but costly quantities of piping made of exotic alloys that are generally un­avail­able via direct sale from the mills. Many pipe distributors broker such stuff, providing a de facto value-added service that draws business from the same clients again and again.

“There are fewer specialized pipe manufacturers than there are mills producing conventional product, and in the case of alloys, the number of players is pretty limited,” said Brian Shin­kle, president of Federal Steel Supply, a distributor specializing in seamless steel pipe based in St. Louis. “A pipe distributor offering such material becomes a critical ally to a buyer in need.”

While most industries continue to rely on distributors to the same extent they always have, the role of the distributor is changing. No longer a supplier only, a distributor must increasingly function as a solutions pro­vider, even in marketplaces seemingly unaffected by seismic shifts in the economy.

Graham is a St. Louis-based freelance writer. Reach him at 314-821-7932.

Reprinted with permission from TED - The Electrical Distributor Magazine  or  June 2009 issue

The primary source of information for the electrical distribution channel across North America.


Health coverage and the ARRA

Haven’t yet taken the necessary steps to address recent changes to COBRA? You may have some catching up to do.

by Denise Kelly

With the stroke of a pen on Feb. 17, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) took effect; and while it may take some time to see its effects on the economic situation, the impact was immediate for business owners and HR professionals. The ARRA in­cludes significant changes to the COBRA continuation coverage rules, requiring quick action by administrators of group healthcare plans.

Under the ARRA, the federal government will subsidize 65% of the COBRA premium for eligible COBRA participants retroactive to Sept. 1, 2008, for a maximum period of nine months. To qualify for the subsidy, a COBRA participant must:

• Be eligible for COBRA coverage between the dates of Sept. 1, 2008, and Dec. 31, 2009

• Elect COBRA coverage at the time of the original offer or during the special election period provided by the ARRA

(If coverage was declined at the time of the original offer, the participant must be given a second opportunity to elect coverage and has 60 days from the date of the second notice to accept.)

• Have qualified for COBRA because of an involuntary termination of em­ploy­ment (other than gross misconduct) that occurred between the dates of Sept. 1, 2008, and Dec. 31, 2009

Under the subsidy program, eligible participants are required to pay only 35% of the COBRA premium; the em­ployer secures reimbursement from the federal government for the remaining 65% by taking credit against payroll taxes or federal income taxes. Since the subsidy is retroactive to Sept. 1, any overpayment may be used to pay forward future premium costs to be used within 180 days, or must be refunded to the participant within 60 days.

In order to ensure compliance with the new rules, be sure to take the following steps:

• Identify “assistance-eligible individuals,” including anyone who was involuntarily terminated (other than for gross mis­conduct) on or after Sept. 1, 2008. Be sure to include covered spouses and dependents, under COBRA regulations.

• Determine which individuals are already receiving COBRA benefits and which declined coverage.

• Make arrangements to handle overpayments by applying the excess to future premiums or by making a reimbursement.

• Provide special notice to those who previously declined coverage (including spouses and eligible dependents), giving them 60 days to reconsider the offer of COBRA coverage.

• Adjust your administrative procedures to reflect the nine-month subsidy of premium payments going forward, and arrange to take credit through fu­ture employer liability to federal taxes.

Limits and Exceptions

The 65% subsidy is limited to a maximum of nine months of coverage. The subsidy will end earlier than nine months if the participant becomes eligible for coverage under another plan, in­cluding Medicare. If the participant was already receiving COBRA benefits, and his or her coverage period ends before the nine months of subsidy has been reached, the subsidy will end when the COBRA coverage period ends.

Under some separation agreements, employers will charge a reduced rate for COBRA coverage. If for any reason an employer does not charge the participant the full COBRA premium rate, the subsidy program in that instance is based on the premium amount actually charged. The amount the participant is re­quired to pay is 35% of the reduced rate, and the employer may claim a subsidy credit for 65% of the reduced rate.

Under the ARRA, the pre­mium subsidy program begins to phase out for those whose adjusted gross income is in ex­cess of $125,000 to $145,000 or a married taxpayer filing jointly with adjusted gross income in excess of $250,000 to $290,000.

For more detailed information on the ARRA and COBRA Coverage Ex­pansion and for model notice forms, contact the U.S. Department of Labor, your plan ad­ministrator, or your broker. To access model notices online, go to .

Kelly is a human resources and training professional with more than 10 years of experience in electrical distribution at The Hite Company in Altoona, Pa. Contact her at

Reprinted with permission from TED - The Electrical Distributor Magazine  or  June 2009 issue

The primary source of information for the electrical distribution channel across North America.


The ups and downs of cabling

While overall sales are expected to drop (again), bright spots remain.

By Jim Hayes

In uncertain times such as these, it is important to find and focus on the real opportunities while holding on to as much business as possible in the weaker markets. In the cabling business, market researchers—the ones who are always optimistic about market pros­pects “next year”—are pretty quiet right now; and most vendors simply say “no comment.” Some say cabling sales in the last quarter of 2008 were bad—estimates put it down about 25%, bringing the entire year to a slight decline from 2007. Yet while 2009 will probably be a downer too, it’s not all bad. There are some bright areas in cabling.

We know that the formerly booming business in premises cabling for the financial sector is not one of those bright areas. Commercial and industrial cabling are very likely suffering a similar fate tied to business conditions.

Enterprise networks are also moving away from cable to the desktop as mo­bile users with laptops and portable web devices are becoming the majority of users. The larger number of mobile users require upgrading Wi-Fi networks to 802.11n, which can offer a reliable 80 to 100Mb/s and upgrade security to the highest levels. (I suspect that cabling upgrades are hard to sell right now, but upgrades to provide GbE connections to wireless access points upgrading from 802.11b or g to 802.11n are common.)

Signs of life

Some applications are doing better. For example, data centers should re­main a growth market for at least three reasons:

1. There will be a continuing increase in Internet traffic, driven by portable web devices and video streaming and downloads.

2. The entry of Cisco into the market for servers will create competition, probably driving prices down and expanding the market even faster.

3. Data centers are being upgraded for lower power usage and 10GbE, both of which create a good mar­ket for fiber-optic cabling. (At 10Gbps, fiber links consume about one-tenth as much power as a Cat 6a copper link.)

Another growth market is in cellular network technology. While phone sales are slowing somewhat, consumers are upgrading to get the latest services (web access and video), and providers are upgrading networks to carry those services. As the cellular web access quality improves, more PC users are subscribing to the services because of their broader coverage as compared to Wi-Fi. With the increase in web traffic and continual upgrades for next-generation services, cellular networks are likely to buy more equipment and build more fiber backbones to increase their coverage and bandwidth.

Within the limits of the economy, fiber to the home (FTTH) continues to make inroads into the broadband mix. FTTH in new residential construction is not much of an opportunity, but re­builds in older areas are continuing, as it not only opens the areas to new services like IPTV, but also reduces the cost of maintaining older copper networks. Multi-dwelling units are also being targeted for upgrades, including fiber to the unit.

The one really bright point in cabling is municipal networks. Cities and towns are building large networks of surveillance cameras, smart traffic lights, and school and public service computer networks. The reason for this increased activity is simple: Government funding is available.

Homeland security helps fund the surveillance cameras and public service computer networks, educational grants help cover school networks, and highway modernization funds the intelligent traffic control upgrades. Urban areas like Santa Monica, Calif., have built out their networks without having to go to the citizens for funding and have even generated extra revenue by leasing dark fibers to companies in the city.

Another opportunity for cabling and communications equipment is in the federal economic stimulus package. The Broad­band Technologies Oppor­tunity Pro­gram is designed to provide more broadband access to underserved areas. It has $8.2 billion allocated for projects under the National Telecommunica­tions and Information Agency and Ru-ral Utilities Services. Under­served areas  include not only rural areas, but also urban areas that have been ignored in favor of richer suburban neighborhoods. Schools can also benefit from this package.

The goal is to create jobs fast, so preference is given to projects that are shovel ready, and the restrictions on who qualifies for these grants and loans are fairly loose. Telcos—big and small, urban and rural—as well as municipalities should be able to take advantage of stimulus money right now.

Hayes, of VDV Works, has been active in the VDV cabling business for more than 25 years. Find him at

Reprinted with permission from TED - The Electrical Distributor Magazine  or  June 2009 issue

The primary source of information for the electrical distribution channel across North America.


Lead through economic climate change

2009 LEAD Conference teaches emerging leaders to prepare for the future—and become more effective in business.

By Stacy Brown

No matter what your age, job position, or years of experience in the electrical industry, you will want to attend NAED’s 2009 LEAD Confer­ence. Open to any emerging leader who works for an NAED member company, the conference provides attendees with the opportunity to network with peers, develop leadership skills, and learn how to lead their companies through the many challenges faced in today’s electrical industry.

History shows that during tough times it takes something extra just to survive. This year’s LEAD Conference—with the theme “Leading Through Eco­nomic Climate Change and Preparing for the Future”—just might be the thing to help your company succeed.

Shaker Brock, warehouse/shipping manager for Electric Supply in Tampa, Fla., has attended LEAD for the past seven years and is chair of the LEAD Committee.

“With the economy struggling so much, I feel attending LEAD is more important than ever. Future leaders of your organization will learn valuable lessons that will help your business not only make it through the tough economic times we are in, but also emerge stronger than ever,” he said.

“The relationships LEAD attendees make are invaluable,” Brock added. “I rely on the many close friends in the industry I’ve made through LEAD to help me with problems our company might be going through or new projects our company is trying to complete. In my opinion, LEAD is a must attend for any ‘up and comer’ in our industry. These are our future leaders, and we need to prepare them for what lies ahead.”

LEAD creates an ideal environment for camaraderie and offers an outstanding program that al­lows for plenty of time to interact with industry experts and to learn ways to become more effective in business. This year’s program includes the following sessions:

• Dr. Don Rice, professor emeritus from Texas A&M University, will lead a general session titled “How to Get and Keep the Best Cus­tom­ers for Life—Your Economic Future De­pends on It.”

A wise person once said, “Do­ing things the same way and expecting different results is insanity.” Believing this to be absolutely true, Rice will teach new but easy-to-implement ways of do­ing some important things differently, enabling you to deliver to your customers the service levels required to make them “Customers for Life.”

This two-part program is designed to create within each attendee an entirely new perspective on how to do ordinary things extraordinarily well. Leaders must plan now not only to survive this economy, but also to prepare their companies for the future. This session addresses leadership for challenging times by teaching new ways of thinking and taking positive action to get the results you need now.

• Burt Schraga, NAED chair and CEO of the Santa Clara, California-based Bell Electri­cal Supply, will describe how he climbed the leadership ladder by turning a job into a career. A 34-year veteran of the industry, Schraga will share his take on the future of the electrical distribution industry. Brian Peters, NAED regional manager, will join Schraga in updating participants on what’s new at NAED and how these new resources and benefits can impact your career. Together they will focus on how NAED’s Learning Center can en­hance your leadership skills.

“I attended LEAD for the first time last year, and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. I love the enthusiasm that this group generates,” said Schraga. “Participating in NAED conferences like LEAD allows you to build relationships that will last forever. In fact, several of my close friends come from this industry.

“I would encourage everyone to attend this conference,” he continued. “The relationships you develop and the knowledge you gain are priceless.”

• Lynne Levesque, consultant, author, and re­searcher will present “Scenario Plan­ning for the Electrical Distribution Industry of the Future.” This three-hour, highly interactive workshop will explore the power of scenario planning and its application to the electrical distribution industry of the future. Par­tici­pants will spend time in structured, small-group discussions investigating the possible ways the industry could evolve over the next several years. The session also explores the potential impacts on the electrical distribution industry from different trends in technology, demographics, globalization, regulations, and human resources issues.

In addition, Levesque has been working with NAED’s Eastern Region Council in developing a series of tools that will assist member companies to better plan and prepare for the future.

“Our Eastern Council project is one we are passionate about, as well as teaming up with the LEAD Committee and working with the many young leaders within our industry,” said Julian Corsello, senior vice president of City Elec­tric, Syra­cuse, N.Y., and chair of the Eastern Region Coun­cil’s task force. “Once the council discovered the theme for this year’s conference, we very quickly found common interest and wanted to participate in preparing our young leaders for tomorrow.”

Attendees also will share informal time to­gether through receptions, dine-around Disney, and a final closing dinner complete with Disney’s fireworks finale. And because the conference will be held at a premier resort situated minutes from Disney theme parks containing more than 9,000 square feet of restaurants, nightclubs, and shops, attendees won’t want to leave their families at home. Discount park tickets are available in addition to NAED-sponsored events for family members, including a children’s reception.

The LEAD Conference will be held July 30-Aug. 2 at Disney’s Board­Walk Inn Resort in Orlando, Fla. To register online, go to Questions about the LEAD Con­ference or LEADCommittee can be directed to Rhonda Parkin­son, meeting planner, at

Brown is a communications specialist for NAED. She can be reached at

Reprinted with permission from TED - The Electrical Distributor Magazine  or  June 2009 issue

The primary source of information for the electrical distribution channel across North America.

UNEMPLOYMENT REACHED 9.4% IN THE USA. We pray that’s the bottom.


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