As states loosen COVID-19 stay-at-home restrictions and with the July 4th holiday weekend just around the corner, people are looking to take advantage of the easing of stay-at-home orders and social distancing measures. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) reminds people about potential electrical hazards that exist in swimming pools and hot tubs, onboard boats and in waters surrounding boats, marinas and launch ramps.

While most people are unaware of electrical dangers posed in water environments such as electric shock drowning (ESD), each year people are injured or killed from these hazards.

Electric shock drowning happens when marina or onboard electrical systems leak electric current into the water. The current then passes through the body and causes paralysis. When this happens, a person can no longer swim and ultimately drowns.

“With limited staff at marinas and people obeying social distancing protocols, the onus is on individuals to keep themselves, their loved ones and the people who might have to rescue them out of harm’s way,” said Lorraine Carli, NFPA’s vice president of Outreach and Advocacy.


Tips for swimmers

Never swim near a marina, dock, or boatyard.

While in a pool or hot tub look out for underwater lights that are not working properly, flicker or work intermittently.

If you feel a tingling sensation while in a pool, immediately stop swimming in your current direction. Try and swim in a direction where you had not felt the tingling. Exit the water as quickly as possible; avoid using metal ladders or rails. Touching metal may increase the risk of shock.


Tips for pool owners

If you are putting in a new pool or hot tub, be sure the wiring is performed by an electrician experienced in the special safety requirements for these types of installations.

Have a qualified electrician periodically inspect and — where necessary — replace or upgrade the electrical devices or equipment that keep your pool or hot tub electrically safe. Have the electrician show you how to turn off all power in case of an emergency.

Make sure any overhead lines maintain the proper distance over a pool and other structures, such as a diving board. If you have any doubts, contact a qualified electrician or your local utility company to make sure power lines are a safe distance away.


Tips for boat owners

When heading out for a day on the water, follow all existing navigation and safety rules. Practice good seamanship and avoid becoming a boater in distress. With the current pandemic, there may be fewer staff at the marina and fewer rescue personnel available to come to your aid.

Contact your local marina or boatyard in advance to learn about any local requirements in response to the pandemic that must be followed – especially if you are a transient customer.

Avoid entering the water when launching or loading a boat. These areas can contain stray electrical currents in the water, possibly leading to electric shock drowning or injury from shock, including death.

Each year, and after any major storm that affects the boat, have the boat’s electrical system inspected by a qualified marine electrician to be sure it meets the required codes of your area, including the American Boat & Yacht Council. Make the necessary repairs if recommended.

Check with the marina owner who can also tell you if the marina’s electrical system has recently been inspected to meet the required codes of your area, including the National Electrical Code® (NEC®).

Have ground fault circuit protection (GFCI and GFPE) installed on circuits supplying the boat; use only portable GFCIs or shore power cords (including “Y” adapters) that bear the proper listing mark for marine applications when using electricity near water. Test GFCIs monthly.

NFPA has resources for swimmers, boat and pool owners, including tip sheets, checklists, and more that can be downloaded and shared. Visit www.nfpa.org/watersafety.

Founded in 1896, NFPA is a global self-funded nonprofit organization devoted to eliminating death, injury, property and economic loss due to fire, electrical and related hazards. The association delivers information and knowledge through more than 300 consensus codes and standards, research, training, education, outreach and advocacy; and by partnering with others who share an interest in furthering the NFPA mission. For more information, visit www.nfpa.org. All NFPA codes and standards can be viewed online for free at www.nfpa.org/freeaccess.