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For Electric Cooperative Members

Swim Safely This Summer

Pay attention to weather and possible hazards when using electricity

Imagine a hot summer day with sunshine sparkling on the surface of a cool swimming pool. The little ones are putting on their swimsuits, Mom is getting out sunblock and life preservers, and Dad is blowing up floating pool toys.

But be alert! This inviting scene can turn into a dangerous situation if electrical safety precautions are not observed.

Electric shock from misuse of electricity around swimming pools or spas can cause electrocution.

Now imagine that the family is outside, ready to make a splash. Bob grabs an extension cord, plugs it into an unprotected electrical outlet on the patio and lays it over the pool deck to plug in his Bluetooth speaker.

He plugs his phone in, too, so he can play tunes while he enjoys the water. He likes to have it within arm’s reach of the pool—so he can shuffle songs without getting out of the water.

Jane sees that dark thunderheads are building in the distance but decides she can squeeze in at least a few minutes of sunbathing while floating on her pool lounger before the afternoon thunderstorm brings rain and lightning.

Can you identify some of the hazards in this scenario? Although the family followed a couple of safety precautions, including using sunblock and life preservers, they were not vigilant about proper use of electronics by the pool.

Consider how these guidelines for pool and spa safety from Electrical Safety Foundation International could help our imaginary family avoid danger.

Keep outdoor outlets covered and dry, especially around pools and spas, and make sure they have ground-fault circuit interrupters to prevent electrocution or shock.

In the above scenario, Bob plugs an extension cord into an uncovered non-GFCI outlet, putting himself and his family at risk. And extension cords should only be used temporarily outdoors, where they could be exposed to the elements or cause a tripping hazard.

Keep electrical devices and cords away from water, and use battery-operated devices when possible.

That means that in the imagined scenario, Bob’s plugged-in cellphone and Bluetooth speaker were too close to the water’s edge.

Never handle electrical devices when wet. Even being too sweaty while touching electrical devices can pose a risk of electrocution. Wet skin or wet surfaces, such as a pool deck, can greatly increase the chance of electrocution when electricity is present.

Do not swim during a thunderstorm.

The weather on this made-up summer day by the pool is sunny initially, but storm clouds are looming, and Jane—and anyone else in the pool—takes a risk by deciding to swim when there is lightning nearby.

Other safety tips include:

  • Make sure that swimming pool cleaning equipment is grounded.
  • Ensure that there are no power lines near or over the swimming pool.
  • Have an electrician inspect and repair or upgrade your pool or spa to comply with local and National Electrical Code requirements.
  • If you or anyone else in the water feels a tingling sensation, has muscle cramps or cannot move, you may be experiencing an electric shock. Move away from the source of the shock, if possible, and exit the water without the use of a metal ladder.
  • If someone is trapped in the water because they are experiencing electric shock, immediately turn off all power and call 911. Not turning off the power can cause rescuers to become the next victims.