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How-To Guide

Site Survey and Wiring Plan

One of the school organizer's first tasks is to arrange for a site survey. The lead technician conducts a walk-through visit to the school site, accompanied by the school organizer and the site administrator. You should also invite the facilities manager or chief engineer for the school or district. The purpose of the survey is to assess the site for any obstacles to running cable and to decide where the cable runs should go.

Here are the concerns to address in the site survey.

  1. The NetDay objective is to wire six classrooms to one central point (as shown in our sample wiring plan). You may want to concentrate your efforts on key facilities (the library, administration building, computer labs) and then consider which classrooms to wire. Assign priorities in case you run out of cable.
  2. The NetDay kit allows for two "drops" (where jacks are wired to the cable to provide network outlets) per classroom. Two or more drops per classroom make it much easier to determine the source of any problem that may arise.
  3. Referring to the floor plans, find the main telecommunications service entry point (usually a phone closet in the administration wing). This is the school's external connection to the Internet. Then decide on the location of the central point, where the conduit topology will allow the shortest run to each classroom to be served. The central point should be in a secure utility space with a separate electrical circuit (to help protect the network from power surges) and should be adequately ventilated. Mark the locations of both points on the floor plan.
  4. Decide where to put the drops in each classroom - that is, where to install the jacks. Remember that Category 5 cable cannot be used for runs longer than 328 feet (100 meters), including service coils and patch cords. Mark the drops on the floor plan.
  5. Inspect the possible wiring routes back to the central point to ensure that they are not blocked by structural barriers such as concrete walls or asbestos. Note on the floor plan where plenum-rated cable will be required. Don't plan runs on roofs or through attics that can reach high temperatures (heat degrades Category 5's data transmission capabilities). Refer to the NetDay Cable Installation Guide for details on surface mounting cable or stringing it through walls, floors, and ceilings.

After the site survey, the technician maps out the cable runs in the wiring plan. If accurate, architectural computer-aided design (CAD) floor plans exist for the school site, we recommend using them to draw up the wiring plan, so that you can easily estimate the amount of cable you will need. Otherwise, you will have to measure each run. It may speed things up when you're measuring to remember that ceiling tiles are 2 feet square. Don't forget to allow for the distance from the ceiling to the drops, and follow the rules for allowing slack in the NetDay Cable Installation Guide.

See Sample Wiring Plan

"Our plan for NetDay was to wire five classrooms and a library. In fact, we did 10 classrooms and a three-room library in one afternoon with 80 volunteers, and we installed about 5,500 feet of cable. We've already had NetDay II, wiring an additional 22 classrooms with another 6,500 feet of cable. Things went like clockwork. . . . I wouldn't have missed NetDay for anything."

Dennis Hong, project manager, U.S. Department of Energy, and
technical volunteer for Mission High School in San Francisco,
California, on Mission's spring 1996 wiring efforts