I have had a wire pinched within a 90 degree 3/8 MC cable connector short out. This caused a short circuit which bypassed the 480/277volt 20 Amp individual branch circuit breaker supplying the flourescent 277 volt fixture, then bypassed the 200 amp fused bus disconnect feeding the 42 circuit panelboard (MLO) on the floor, and finally openned the 1600 amp GFCI pringle switch which feeds the bus riser for that part of the building. The same type occurance made a 2000 amp GFCI pringle switch open on another part of the building last month. Why won't the branch circuit breaker on the floor trip. I suspect the pringle switches are set too sensitive.
We are not talking GFCI, it is GFPE. GFCI is Ground Fault Circuit Interruptor and is for protection of personnel. GFPE is Ground Fault Protection of Equipment as covered in 215-10 and 230-95. I can't imagine a branch circuit that is protected at 20 amps causing a GFPE set at 1600 amp to trip. For that to happen the GFPE would have to already be on the verge of tripping. That would mean that close to 1600 amps is constantly being fed to ground, the GFPE is defective or the feeder is very unbalanced. 230-95 gives the maximum setting to be 1200 amps. The trip time at 3000 amps has to be less than or equal to one second. A 20 amp circuit breaker should be instantaneous at around 100 amps. The GFPE requirements are for feeders and services because of the high short circuit available to that types of equipment and the conductors. Have the breaker trip units and sensors(CTs) been tested lately? Is the 20 amp somehow causing a very large load to start?
For the types of breakers the the original poster was talking about I think the setting would be closer to 100 amps minimum. The trip units usually use multiples of 100 amps to ground. That 5 amps would allow the service GFPE to go out before the branch circuit. A small motor shorting out mid-winding would bring the whole system down because the short circuit protection may be set so much higher than 5 amps and the overload device would probably be too slow. The overload device is to protect the motor, not for safety to prevent elevated voltages at ground. Services going down because of a branch circuit fault is definitely poor selective protective coordination.