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Panel: Rob Simon
Media: Bryan Goodman

A number of organizations set standards for the wire and cable industry in the United States and internationally. In the United States, the National Fire Protection Association’s (NFPA) and Underwriters Laboratory (UL), an independent, not-for-profit safety testing and certification organization, are the main standard-setting organizations.

Specifically, NFPA 70, the National Electrical Code (NEC), which has been adopted by virtually every state and jurisdiction in the country, and UL requirements, with specific standards for each type of wire and cable, are the mandatory requirements for all electrical installations in buildings.

The NEC includes comprehensive and complex requirements for wiring and equipment, including wires and cables (e.g., communication and power cables), insulations and jackets (the protective covering for conductors and cables, usually made of plastic), and “wireways” (enclosures in which wires and cables are often installed). For each product, a corresponding NEC product standard must be met, and the vast majority of these are UL standards. In addition to the NEC, the NPFA also outlines other strict fire test requirements that apply to specific cables depending on their use.  In some cases, UL has adopted standards based on those of the International Electrotechnical Commission, which sets international standards. But, in general, U.S. standards often are stricter than those of the IEC.

In the United States, all wires and cables used are required to be “listed” by an organization that will assure each component meets the organization’s standards. This usually involves testing the entire cable. When a cable is listed, it means each component must comply with the safety requirements of the listing organization, including fire safety, if applicable, and that all materials also have been approved. The two major U.S. listing organizations for electrical and electronic equipment are UL and Intertek.

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