Our Back to Basics department is extremely popular. I think one reason why is all of us recognize the value of describing something simply, getting to the root of the problem, and applying basic principles to complex problems. But are we consistently visiting our basic principles? How often does a problem seem to take on a life of its own? How often does a problem reach catastrophic levels because we ignored the basics? We all know Ohm's Law. Yet, I am amazed at the number of installations that include unbonded electrodes as part of an "isolated ground" system. According to Ohm's Law, this makes no sense.

This year's rabid attack on NFPA 780 (the lightning protection standard) is a prime example of ignoring the basics of bonding. NFPA 780 requires you to bond metal objects to prevent flashover. Using an air terminal to provide a statistically preferred strike point, you can offer a certain radius of protection from lightning. But, one manufacturer claims its air terminal provides a protection radius so wide normal bonding requirements don't apply. If this radius is wrong, then flashing will occur - perhaps with lethal consequences. We know this because of Ohm's Law, capacitance theory, and the right-hand rule that is the centerpiece of the IEEE logo. Attention to basic principles means you still do the bonding, and "cost savings" from not doing it cannot be part of the purchase decision.

As we apply electricity's basic principles consistently, we develop certain practices in accordance with them. Perhaps you've heard of the phrase, "best practices," which came out of the world of management science and quality control. The idea behind this concept is you share with your peers information about how others succeed, and then change your methods to incorporate the best of what the winners do.

You know basic principles from your schooling. But, how do you learn best practices? EC&M offers many ways for you to realize this goal. Those include EC&M Seminars, Electric West, this spring's Electric 2001, and articles written by a wide range of industry experts.

So, get involved. Get on a standards committee, take on a duty, arrange a seminar. The more you network within this industry, the more you will know the best practices. Of course, such involvement will boost your career - that's a basic principle.