Don’t let electrical hazards ‘ground’ water recreation

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SPRINGFIELD—Summer brings to mind a cool dip in the pool, a refreshing day at the lake or fishing on the bank of a trickling stream. Don’t let a safety hazard dampen your summer fun.

Safe Electricity reminds everyone that water and electricity are a dangerous combination. Assessing electrical hazards near areas of water is a wise investment of time and personal energy. The program’s new public service announcement campaign highlights electrical hazards that could “ground” summer water fun.

“The result of contact between water and electricity can be serious, or even deadly,” says Molly Hall, executive director of Safe Electricity. “And in most instances, if potential safety hazards are taken into consideration and handled proactively, accidents and deaths could certainly be avoided.”

Electrical equipment around swimming pools can pose a very real hazard. According to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission, deaths and serious shocks occur in and around swimming pools each year.

Safe Electricity offers the following tips to stay safe in or around swimming pools:

Do not put any electrical appliances within 5 feet of a swimming pool.

Any electrical outlets within 20 feet of a pool should be equipped with a GCFI, or Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter.

Pools and decks should be built at least 5 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.

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,” says Hall. “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 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 ground fault circuit interrupter (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 potential contact.

For more information on electrical safety, visit Safe Electricity is an electrical safety public awareness program created and supported by a coalition of several dozen organizations, including electric utilities, educators and other entities committed to promoting electrical safety.

from the Aug 1-7, 2007, issue

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