In 2015, $3.1 billion dollars were lost due to fires in commercial buildings. 7.8% of those fires were caused by electrical malfunction.
Over 1,400 injuries resulted from those fires and 80 people lost their lives. Many of those fires were preventable.
This is just one example of why regular electrical testing is so important. However, for those who still need convincing, here are a few more reasons to get your electrical systems tested.
You Have Faulty Breakers
Electrical testing should include inspecting and testing at the breakers. Faulty breakers can lead to a fire.
For commercial panels that haven't been upgraded recently, the switches and breakers that make up the circuits are also a risk. If those breakers and switches aren't working correctly, your electrical system can't do what it's supposed to do.
It's a dangerous situation if that occurs.
There's Old Insulation on the Wires
Nothing lasts forever, not even insulation. Throughout its lifetime, the insulation will break down due to a variety of reasons. It may have even been damaged during installation or when other tenant improvements were made. Rodents gaining access into panels and switchgear may have also chewed on the insulation.
Old age also wreaks havoc on insulation. It can become brittle or simply disintegrate over time. When any of the above happens, the wiring become exposed creating the potential of a short, explosion, and fire.
Rodents Have Caused Damage
Mice and rats are found in every type of dwelling and they cause structural damage. It's not just the insulation they'll chew through.
Rodents are also known to make homes out of the insulation and enclosures that are not properly sealed. And they're not picky about neighborhoods or school districts when they're looking for homes. Everything from your parking structure to your switchgear is fair game. Their happy-home-making can cause the wiring to short circuit and malfunction which can lead to a fire and thousands of dollars in repairs.
Performing electrical maintenance and testing can expose how rodents are wreaking havoc on your commercial property and give you an opportunity to seal up entry points to eliminate further damage.
Poorly Modified Wiring
As your building ages, more and more contractors will have had a hand or two working on, or modifying, the electrical system.
While we love to believe that all contractors complete their work to the same standards, that is not always the case. Over the years, your building may accumulate loose live wires, poorly executed connections, and other unsafe conditions lurking behind your electrical covers and inside your equipment.
Low Amp Wiring and Design
When it comes to building safety standards, we know they change for the better as the years progress. Updates to these standards benefit everyone. What was perfectly acceptable in the 1970s (lead paint, anyone?) would be unheard of now.
Standards have changed in regards to how some circuits are fed. For example, a tenant suite might have been wired to have one breaker feed all the receptacles in their space. Initially, their needs may have only been a few electric type writers and a pencil sharpener. Fast forward 20-30 years, and everything has changed. Printers, copiers, dozens of computers, a server room... You can see how overloading the undersized circuits and wiring is easy to do when you're busy making exciting improvements.
It is a smart idea to have electrical testing done to expose some of those design and overload issues.
The Rules Concerning Electrical Testing
What needs to be remembered is that the industry sets standards to follow in maintaining the integrity and reliability of the electrical system. NETA, NFPA, and others create standards to follow. These outline what is required of a facility's electrical safety plan.
The NEC is updated every three years to maintain the availability of relevant electrical safety information for the industry.
If you own, manage, or run a building, take the steps necessary to incorporate electrical testing and inspections as an annual part of your buildings pm program.