Electricity and water safety

Whether it’s swimming, boating or fishing, summertime is water recreation time for millions. The following information on electrical safety around water is from Safe Energy, a part of the Energy Education Council in collaboration with University of Illinois Extension.

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. But electricity also can be dangerous. It doesn’t take much electricity to hurt someone. The electricity that runs through your home is enough to kill an adult.

Ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) are one form of protection from electrical hazards. GFCIs detect dangerous situations where a shock may occur, and cut of power to prevent shock. Any situation where electricity is used in close proximity to water is a shock hazard. You should have GFCI protection on underwater lighting circuits, lighting around pools, and hot tubs and spas. Safe Electricity offers the following tips to stay safe in or around swimming pools:

  • Do not put any electrical appliances within five feet of a swimming pool.
  • Any electrical outlets within 20 feet of a pool should be equipped with a GCFI.
  • Pools and decks should be built at least five feet away from all underground electrical lines, and at least 25 feet away from overhead electrical lines.
  • As always, never swim during a thunderstorm.
  • Use battery-operated, rather than electrical, appliances near swimming pools.
  • If a swimmer is electrocuted or shocked, don’t dive in yourself, or you could be electrocuted as well. Turn off the power, and then use a fiberglass shepherd’s hook to pull the victim out of the water.

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 that they should be set up well away from any electrical outlets or appliances. In most instances, if potential safety hazards are taken into consideration and handled proactively, accidents and deaths can be avoided.

Electricity and water are dangerous around larger bodies of water, as well. If you plan to go boating or fishing this summer, be aware of your surroundings and potential electrical hazards.

Always check the location of nearby power lines before boating or fishing. Contact between your boat and a power line could be devastating. Maintain a distance of at least ten feet between your boat and nearby power lines to be safe. Your boat’s wiring should be in compliance with American Yacht Club Standards. If you are not qualified to work on your boat’s electricity, hire a professional.

If your boat does come 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. Be sure dockside outlets have GFCI protection and check cords that are plugged into them to make sure there is no broken casing or exposed wires.

Check for the location of power lines before fishing. Make sure you are casting the line away from power lines to avoid contact.

By following these rules and guidelines, you and others can stay safe when dealing with electricity and water together.

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