Residents in our region of the country are known for their love of the water. But we all are acutely aware that electricity and water are a dangerous – and possibly fatal – combination. Swimmers and boat owners at piers, docks and marinas need to take a few steps to make sure their time in and on the water is safe.
While this might seem like common sense, boats and docks are often powered by electricity. One mistake could lead to tragedy.
Unfortunately, there is no visible warning to electrified water. Electric current in water causes paralysis of muscles, which results in drowning. As a little as 10 milliamps (1/50th of the amount used by a 60 watt light bulb) can cause paralysis and drowning.
If you are swimming – or have contact with water – and feel a tingling, the water might be electrified. Immediately get out of the water and avoid using metal objects such as a ladder. Immediately alert others, try to stay upright, tuck legs to be smaller, and swim away from anything that could be energized.
If you believe an electrical drowning is occurring, immediately turn off all power, throw a life ring to the person and call 911. Do not enter the water, as it could still be electrified.
If you own a dock or pier, install Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCI) and test them monthly. Be sure to use portable “UL-Marine List” GFCIs when using electricity near water.
If you own a boat that uses electricity, consider having Equipment Leakage Circuit Interrupters (ELCI) installed to protect swimmers from electric shock in the water around the boat.
The Energy Education Council recommends that all electrical installations be performed by a professional electrical contractor familiar with marine codes and standards. Additionally, neighboring docks can present a shock hazard. Make sure your neighbors are aware of the need of safety inspections and maintenance.
The organization also recommends that individuals not swim around docks with electrical equipment or boats plugged into shore power. Many ESD (electrical shock drowning) deaths have occurred around private docks and boats plugged into shore power while docked.
At WFEC, safety is our top priority. We value your membership. We value you.