If you are a facilities or datacenter manager, an SMB financial services company, a bank that leases space in a co-location center, a co-location host, a cloud computing services provider, a telecom or VoIP services company, or a cable provider of voice services, you'd best read this.
In fact, if you consider your IT operations a touch point on the nation's networking infrastructure, there's a little-known regulation about backup power capabilities that might end up having a profound effect on your business.
Article 708: Continuity of power
First, I want to thank Bhavesh Patel, director of marketing at ASCO Power Technologies, an Emerson Network Power subsidiary, for his patience in explaining all of the following to me.
[ For more about the blurring lines between IT and facilities, see "Why IT should get in the facilities business." ]
On Jan. 1, 2008, Article 708 -- aka COPS (Critical Operations Power Systems) -- was added to articles 700, 701, and 702 of the NEC (National Electric Code).
This code was created by the National Fire Protection Association, a nonprofit that has been around since 1896. To put it in context, the NFPA is roughly equivalent to a high-tech standards body, except when it creates an electrical or fire-code standard, it is almost always adopted by states as law.
The addition of Article 708 to the NEC may be old news to some, but my guess is that if you hold one of the job functions I listed above this could be the first time you're hearing of this.
The articles that fall under the 700 numerals are all about emergency power in times of disaster. Article 700 has to do with requirements in health care and hospitals for emergency power systems. Article 701 is mainly concerned with standby power system requirements in buildings with elevators and lighting for emergency exits.
Article 702 is a set of optional best practices for industries such as food service in case of a loss of power.
But the idea behind Article 708, according to the International Association of Electrical Inspectors (IAEI), is to maintain continuity of power, and not just until everyone has left the building, so to speak.
In other words, Article 708 changes everything.
The long arm of Article 708
Motivated in the wake of 9/11 and Katrina, Article 708 states that any facility critical to the normal operation of the U.S. economy must have continuous backup power. Which industries or facilities must comply with Article 708 is determined by municipal, state, and federal agencies, or "by facility engineering documentation establishing the necessity for such a system," according to the code.