Offshore Cables Cause Fire Safety Concerns

Cables manufactured offshore stand a significant fire risk, according to the Communications Cable and Connectivity Association. The CCCA recently commissioned an independent laboratory to analyze nine, randomly selected offshore samples to see if the cables meet U.S. minimum performance and safety requirements.

The results showed that none of the samples were fully compliant. Eight of the nine samples could not meet National Fire Protection Association minimum code requirements for low flame spread and/or smoke safety requirements for installation in commercial buildings, schools and multi-tenant residences.

The cables, procured from North American distributors, were Cat-5e and Cat-6, both of which are used in LAN and in-wall installations that have Ethernet jacks. Cable placement is critical because the flame and smoke characteristics would cause combustion that would not be evident to people until it had progressed significantly.

CCCA Executive Director Frank Peri said the cable products manufactured in China or Taiwan may be made with inferior materials and methods to save on production costs. He said the manufacturers have put the public safety at risk.

This is unacceptable.

North America’s system of industry-led performance standards and fire safety protection include integrity, which would erode with an influx of sub-standard, non-compliant cables. Contractors and distributors could face major liabilities if the installed, substandard products are later found to not meet minimum fire code requirements or do not satisfy other mechanical/electrical performance standards.

It is important to have transparent industry standards, as well as testing to prevent unsuspecting customers from buying any structured cabling product that will not perform as advertised.

About the Author

Ralph C. Jensen is editor-in-chief of Security Today magazine.

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