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 and 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 and 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.