Most of us are oblivious to one of the most significant dangers of swimming pools and other recreational artificial bodies of water. Getting electrocuted is the last thing anyone would expect to happen when swimming and as such, when it happens, we are rarely prepared.
Although not a common occurrence, 14 people have lost their lives to electrically charged pools over the last 11 years. Many more have suffered injuries ranging from mild to critically severe as a result of negligence, ignorance or a simple lack of knowledge on all the possible dangers of swimming pools.
Swimming pool electrocutions are extremely dangerous both to the individuals inside the pool and those within the immediate surroundings. This is because when it happens, swimmers become immobilized and worse, they become active conduits for the electric current. As such, rescuers who do not observe the proper procedure often find themselves getting electrocuted as well in their attempt to free the victims, leading to a chain of catastrophic reactions that may very well lead to severe consequences.
How do pool electrocutions occur?
An electrically charged pool may be the result of a pump that hasn’t been properly grounded or faulty/improperly installed pool equipment such as heaters and lights. It can also occur when you use electrical appliances or place extension cords near the pool. When this happens, every metallic surface, nearby puddle of water, and person who is in contact with either of the two becomes a potential electrocution hazard.
In the event of an emergency, it is crucial to be prepared in the following ways:
- Know exactly where all the circuit breakers are positioned in and around the pool. Your first course of action would be to switch them off immediately the individuals in the pool begin to exhibit any signs of being shocked.
- Find a non-conductive object to try and get them out of the pool as quickly as possible. It is prudent to own a fiberglass or wooden shepherd’s hook as you can use this to pull the victims to safety without causing harm to yourself
- Call for emergency services immediately everyone is out of the pool and administer CPR if you know how to. Some victims may be knocked out by the charge and might require first aid to get the water out of their lungs.
The most effective way to ensure that no one gets injured or killed in a pool electrocution incident is to ensure that it does not occur in the first place. Here are some of the precautions you should observe to that effect:
- Do NOT swim shortly before, during or shortly after a thunderstorm.
- Ensure that a qualified electrician who is certified in pool and spa repairs and installation sets up your swimming pool for you.
- Junction boxes and electrical wires should be placed at least 5 feet away from the water.
- Install GFCIs (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters) on pool appliances such as pumps, heaters, the lights within the pool and any lights within 20 feet of the water as an added measure of protection in case a fault occurs. This device will automatically cut off the power when it detects that it is flowing through an unintended path such as water, a metallic object or any other conductive object. Perform regular tests to ensure that it is functioning at all times.
Always inspect the pool and its surroundings for signs of broken conduits, cracked concrete or stray, high-voltage wires. Pool installers often conduct inspections free of charge so you should not hesitate to call on one when you feel the need to have a professional around to conduct a proper inspection.