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Stay safe when setting sail


Electrical safety is probably the last thing that crosses anyone’s mind on a leisurely summertime boat ride. But because water and electricity are a deadly combination, before taking off, brush up on some boating safety rules.

“It’s critical you stay away from electric power lines and other electricity sources whenever you go boating,” said Brandon Linville, Director of Operations at Southeastern Indiana REMC. “After all, besides being a popular ingredient for summertime fun, water is a good conductor of electricity. Even when you’re on a boat, electricity still tries to reach the ground below to the bottom of the body of water.”

Boaters should constantly be aware of the location of power lines. That means paying close attention when raising or lowering the boat’s mast or spar and ensuring drying sails and sheet lines don’t blow into power lines.

“When docking your boat, enlist the help of another person to help guide you at least 10 feet away from all power lines,” Linville said.

Among other boating must-dos:

  • While on the water, be cognizant of signs which indicate where underwater utility lines are located. Don’t anchor your boat near them.

  • Are you wishing to go fishing? Again, check for overhead power lines first — then cast your line.

  • If your boat accidentally comes in contact with a power line, whatever you do, don’t jump in the water. Stay on board and don’t touch anything made of metal. Don’t leave the boat until it has moved away from the power line.

  • If you notice a tingling sensation while swimming, the water could be electrified. Get out quickly, avoiding metal objects like ladders. 

  • Equipment leakage circuit interrupters protect swimmers nearby from potential electrical leakage into the water around your boat. Consider installing them on your boat.

To make sure your boat’s electrical system is in ship shape, periodically have a professional marine electrician inspect it. It should meet local and state safety codes and standards. Make sure all the boat’s AC outlets are three-prong. All electrical connections should be in a panel box, so contact is avoided. Ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCI) should be installed on your boat — as well as on the dock. When using electricity near water, use portable GFCIs labeled “UL-Marine Listed.” Test all GFCIs once a month. 


Danger in the water

If there is something wrong with the wiring in or near boats or docks, the electric currents can flow into the water. Though the water molecules don’t conduct electricity, electrons are carried through the water by ions. As those electrons move, they create electrified water. When the human body comes in contact with electrified water it conducts electricity. As a result, the victim can completely lose muscle control, suffer from ventricular fibrillation and die from electric shock. That’s why you should never swim near electric-powered boats or docks.

Here are some tips to prevent electrical injuries on boats and in the water:

  • No swimming near docks or boats.

  • Notice a tingling sensation while swimming? Get out of the water quickly, avoiding metal objects like ladders.

  • Just as you do at home, when on your boat, don’t use frayed or damaged cords or any cords that have had the prongs removed.

  • Install GFCIs on your boat and have them tested once a month.

  • Equipment leakage circuit interrupters protect swimmers nearby from potential electrical leakage into the water around your boat. Consider installing them on your boat.

  • To make sure your boat’s electrical system is in ship shape, periodically have a professional marine electrician inspect it.

Source: Electrical Safety Foundation International


Is your boat properly equipped?


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

  • Life jackets (one Type III per person, Coast Guard approved)

  • 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,” Brandon Linville, Director of Operations at Southeastern Indiana REMC, warned. “Everyone knows the two don’t mix, yet thousands of accidents occur each year that result in injury or death.”

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