Michigan Will Review New Standards To Reduce Electrical Fires

The Michigan Joint Committee on Administrative Rules (JCAR) on Feb. 4 is scheduled to review new building and electrical standards that include requirements for arc-fault circuit interrupters (AFCI) in new home construction.

These advanced circuit breakers will provide Michigan residents with increased protection from the threat of residential electrical fires. However, recent efforts by the building industry to delete AFCIs from the codes at this late stage in the process could delay final adoption and implementation of the building standards.

In the past year, a strong coalition of local groups including the Michigan Chapters of Electrical Inspectors and International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), along with numerous fire service organizations, have blocked previous attempts by the Michigan Homebuilders Association to remove AFCIs from the new codes. State and national fire experts agree that AFCIs will prevent many of the 73,000 residential electrical fires that occur annually in the United States and reduce the risk to life and property.

Homebuilders associations have raised concerns about the price, availability and effectiveness of AFCIs. However, say supporters of the new standards, AFCIs are readily available for about $30 from any major hardware store.

According to James Burns, president of the National Association of State Fire Marshals, "If you have ever had an electrical fire, live in an older home with bad wiring, have aluminum wiring, are building a new home or thinking about upgrading your existing electrical service, ask your electrician about AFCIs. Without question, AFCIs are the most important fire safety innovation since the smoke alarm. They should be installed in every home, on all circuits."

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