Electricity and Water Don’t Mix: Use Caution this Boating Season

A peaceful outing on the water is one of the best ways to spend a summer day. But too often, these activities are spoiled by tragedies associated with poor planning or reckless behavior.

“We want residents to enjoy the amenities that nature has to offer,” explained Rick Coons, CEO of Indiana Electric Cooperatives. “But it’s imperative that it be done responsibly. There’s simply too much at stake otherwise.”

If you own a boat, it’s important to familiarize yourself with Coast Guard regulations. Complying isn’t difficult, but it does take planning. If you own a vessel measuring 16 to 24 feet, make sure the boat contains the following:

  • Registration
  • Lifejackets (one Type III, Coast Guard approved, per person)
  • At least one Type IV flotation device (a throwable device in case someone falls overboard)
  • A sound-producing device, such as a horn or whistle (preferably whistles without cork, as cork tends to swell)
  • A fire extinguisher in good condition
  • Flares

“When boating, it’s also important to keep in mind that you’ll often find electricity nearby,” Coons warned. “Everyone knows the two don’t mix, yet thousands of accidents occur each year that result in injury or death.”

Consider the following tips and ensure that both the kids and adults around you know their importance:

  • Always check the location of nearby power lines before boating or fishing. Maintain a distance of at least 10 feet between your boat and nearby lines.
  • If your boat comes in contact with a power line, never jump into the water. The water could be energized. Instead, stay in the boat and avoid touching anything metal until help arrives or your boat is no longer in contact with the line.
  • Likewise, if a swimmer is shocked or electrocuted, don’t dive in yourself. You could then be electrocuted as well. Turn off the power, then use a fiberglass shepherd’s hook to pull the victim out of the water.
  • When getting out of the water, don’t touch any electrical appliances, including radios, until you are dry and standing on a dry surface.

When it comes to wiring and boat docks, leave the job to a professional. Improper wiring can leave metal structures energized with electricity. Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) outlets should be utilized in any location near water.

“Use those test buttons that are found on GFCIs,” Coons added. “If pushing the test button doesn’t trip the interrupter, the outlet should be replaced.”

With caution, awareness and planning, we can ensure that the only pain or suffering the summer months bring is maybe a bit of sunburn.

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National Rural Electric Cooperative Association