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Help prevent electric shock drowning

Above-ground swimming poolA dip in the pool is a refreshing way to cool off on a hot summer day. However, a little known electrical hazard can darken even the sunniest afternoon. Electrical equipment in or near the pool should be checked to ensure electricity is not travelling outside of the intended circuit. If it is, it could be leaking into the water and creating an electric shock drowning (ESD) hazard. Safe Electricity wants to help raise awareness of ESD and shares the warning signs and safety tips for those enjoying water recreation activities this summer.

ESD occurs when electric current is present in water and passes through the body of someone in that water. A swimmer who encounters electric current in the water experiences muscle paralysis, which leaves the individual unable to swim to safety.

The threat is greatest in freshwater rivers, lakes, and pools where there is electrical equipment nearby that is plugged into shore power. ESD is a particularly dangerous hazard because it’s impossible to tell by sight if the water is energized.

In June 2016, 3TV/CBS 5 reported a tragedy that occurred in a swimming pool in Arizona. A father of four received an electrical shock while in the pool and in contact with a pool light. He was rushed to the hospital but did not survive.

In order to reduce ESD risks, make sure that any electrical equipment, such as lighting, in your pool is up to code and regularly examined by a professional. To change or repair a light, ensure the electricity to the pool is first turned off at the circuit breaker.

If you are in the water and feel electric current, which can cause a tingling or pulsing sensation, shout to let others know, try to stay upright, tuck your legs up to make yourself smaller, and swim away from anything that could be energized. Do not use a metal ladder to exit the pool.

Resist the urge to jump in the water to help someone who you suspect may be experiencing an electrical shock. Throw them a float, and try to eliminate the source of electricity as quickly as possible. Have someone call 911. It is not safe to jump in the pool to save the person in distress because you will also suffer an electrical shock and not be able to help anyone.

Rusty, unprotected electrical outlet on the edge of a dockIt is also important to conduct safety checks and take safety precautions around boats and docks. Outdated wiring (like the rusty, unprotected outlet in the photo) and a lack of proper safety equipment on boats and docks can create situations in which electricity "leaks" into the water and causes ESD hazards. Safe Electricity recommends that individuals do not swim around docks with electrical equipment or boats plugged into shore power.

If you own a boat and/or dock, make sure it has proper safety equipment and complies with applicable standards and codes. Have boat and dock electrical systems checked at least once a year. All electrical installations should be performed by a professional electrical contractor familiar with marine codes and standards.

Remember, water and electricity are a dangerous mix—even outside the pool. Never touch any electrical appliances or outlets when you are wet or standing in water.

For more information, visit SafeElectricity.org.

Article and images courtesy of SafeElectricity.org.

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