Electricity is essential energy —it keeps us cool in the summer, lights our house, keeps the refrigerator cold, and runs the TV, stereo, and computers. However, water and electricity are a dangerous combination. Whether it’s swimming, boating or fishing, Safe Electricity reminds everyone to avoid electrical hazards during water recreation.
Swimming Pools & Hot Tubs
Ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) are one form of protection from electrical hazards. GFCIs detect dangerous situations where a shock may occur and cut off power to prevent shock. Any situation where electricity is used near water is a shock hazard. You should have GFCI protection on underwater lighting circuits, lighting around pools, hot tubs, and spas. Safe Electricity offers the following tips to stay safe in or around swimming pools:
- Build pools and decks at least 5 feet away from all underground electric lines and at least 25 feet away from overhead electric lines.
- Do not put electric appliances within 10 feet of a swimming pool. When practical, use battery-operated appliances near swimming pools.
- Any electric outlets within 20 feet of a pool should have GFCIs.
- If a swimmer is in the water and feels electricity or appears to be shocked, don’t dive in or you could be shocked as well. Turn off the power and then use a fiberglass shepherd’s hook to pull the victim out of the water.
- Never swim during a thunderstorm.
When you leave the pool, don’t change the radio station or touch any electrical appliances until you are dry —never touch any electrical appliances when you are wet or standing in water. If children wish to play with sprinklers or hoses, emphasize they should be set up well away from appliances. Usually, if potential safety hazards are considered and handled proactively, accidents and deaths can be avoided.
Lakes & Rivers
- Electricity and water are dangerous around larger bodies of water. If you plan to go boating or fishing this summer, be aware of your surroundings and potential electrical hazards. Never go swimming near boats plugged into shore power or docks with electrical service.
- Check for the location of power lines before fishing. Make sure you are casting the line far away from power lines to avoid contact.
- Contact between your boat and a power line could be devastating. Maintain a distance of at least 10 feet between your boat and nearby power lines to be safe.
- If your boat comes in contact with a power line, never jump out of the boat into the water— the water could be energized. Instead, stay in the boat and avoid touching anything metal until help arrives or until your boat is no longer in contact with the line.
- Your boat’s wiring should comply with American Boat and Yacht Council Standards. Have work done by a professional familiar with marine electrical codes and standards.
- Dock electrical systems should be installed, and then inspected annually by professionals familiar with marine codes, and include ground fault (GFCI) protection.
While driving any time of year, be aware of electrical hazards you may encounter on the road.
If you are driving after a storm, keep away from downed power poles, downed power lines, and damaged electric equipment. Downed and damaged electric equipment can still carry electricity. Coming in contact with the equipment could shock or kill you.
If you are in a car accident with a power pole, do not leave the car until utility professionals tell you it is safe. After a car accident, it may be instinctive to get out if you can. In this case, the safest place is almost always inside the car
If the car is in contact with electrical equipment or power line, it could remain energized. Stepping outside could be deadly if your body becomes the path to ground for electricity. Even if a power line has landed on the ground, there is still the potential for the area near your car to be energized. Call 9-1-1 and wait for the utility to arrive on the scene to ensure the line is de-energized.
Stay inside the vehicle unless there’s a fire or imminent risk of fire.
If you must get out because of a fire, jump clear of the vehicle without touching it and the ground at the same time. Then hop with feet together so there will not be a voltage difference between your feet, which would give electricity the chance to flow through your body. Hop as far away as you can. Remember: do not get out unless you have to.
Vacations offer us a chance to get away, unwind, and explore new places and cultures. Safe Electricity shares tips to prepare your home for electrical safety while you are away and to protect your property by learning about the differences in electrical systems you may find while traveling.
Before You Go
Before you leave home, protect appliances from a possible power surge. Walkthrough each room to make sure appliances that will not be used in your absence, such as TVs and computers, are unplugged.
If traveling abroad, familiarize yourself with the differences in electrical systems beyond our borders. There is no universal standard for electrical voltage, with variations between 110 to 240 volts and 50 to 60 hertz common around the world.
Converters & Transformers
Because U.S. systems produce 120-volt and 60-hertz electricity, our appliances are designed to work with this level of power. There are two ways to protect your devices from burning out in areas with higher levels of electricity, and they depend on what type of electronics you are using.
If you are using an item that will only be plugged in a few minutes, like a hair dryer, you can use a convertor. Convertors turn the 220-volt current on and off, which simulates a 120-volt current.
Before plugging in your device, make sure that both the voltage and wattage are compatible. Remember that converters are for temporary use and should be unplugged when the electricity is not needed.
Anything with computer components or that is plugged in for an extended amount of time can be damaged by a converter’s rapid on and off switching of the current. If you are using a computer or charging electronics, you need a transformer. The transformer actually reduces the electricity to 120 volts so it is suitable for your electronics.
Check the small print on your devices and chargers to see if they support the voltage that will be available while you are traveling. If you see something similar to “100-240 V 50-60 Hz,” it will be usable with other electrical systems. Although many electronic chargers, such as those for laptops and cameras, are often compatible with all voltage standards, you should always closely examine product labeling before using the device abroad. Most lower-cost appliances such as curling irons and hairdryers will not have a built-in adaptor.
In the U.S., most modern outlets are designed for three-pronged devices, but this is not the case in many other countries. To use your three-pronged devices with outlets that are designed differently, you will need to buy an adaptor. Adaptors are available at most hardware stores at a low cost.
If your adaptor does not fit into sockets easily, do not use it. Remember that adaptors do not convert the electricity, but only the plug style. Like converters, they are designed for temporary use.
For more information on electrical safety, please visit the Safe Electricity website.
During holidays, many people decorate their homes with bright strands of lights and decorations. This year, Safe Electricity encourages you to take the necessary time to decorate safely—without skipping any safety steps. Before the decorating begins, inspect all the lights you plan on using. Make sure the wires are in good condition—not cracked, brittle, or frayed. The sockets should not be damaged, and no light bulbs should be missing.
Safe Electricity offers these safety tips when it comes to decorating your home for the holidays:
- When decorating outside, look up and around for power lines. Never throw holiday lights or other decorations into trees near power lines.
- Be especially careful when working near power lines attached to your house. Keep ladders, equipment, and yourself at least 10 feet from power lines.
- Match plugs with outlets. Do not force a three-pronged plug into a two-pronged outlet or extension cord or remove the third prong.
- Use only lights, cords, animated displays, and decorations rated for outdoor use. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions on how to use them.
- Cords should be plugged into outlets equipped with Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCIs). Use a portable GFCI if your outdoor outlets are not equipped with them. A GFCI monitors the flow of electricity in a circuit. If there is an irregularity, even a small one, the flow of electricity is shut off, preventing an electric shock.
- Do not staple or nail through light strings or electrical cords. Use plastic or insulated hooks to hang lights, and do not attach cords to utility poles. Avoid decorating outside on windy or wet days. Choose to decorate in favorable weather conditions and during daylight hours. Safe Electricity hopes you have a happy and safe holiday.
For more information, visit the Safe Electricity website.