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Old 07-14-2020, 11:43 AM   #1
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Default Electrocution

A reminder of how important lakefront home owners and marina owners should confirm their electrical is up to code and in good condition. Such a tragedy...

https://www.foxnews.com/us/arizona-l...lled-boat-dock

I have been meaning to buy one of these for my swim area...This news just made me order one...

https://www.amazon.com/Shock-Alarm-S...MBA6ZCXJVE4XX8

Seems like cheap insurance...

Dan
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Old 07-14-2020, 01:45 PM   #2
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Default testing?

I'd like to see your report. The reviews often indicated there was no way to tell if it was functional,. Low or dead battery etc. If I throw one end of a live extension cord intro the lake, will it go off? Any indication of functional radius? Obviously that depends on the source of electricity. My impression is that if that live extension cord fell into the lake, the related GFCI breaker would pop. We're in the midst of dock upgrades, totally new wiring, adding power pedestals, etc. so this is timely discussion for us.
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Old 07-14-2020, 01:57 PM   #3
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I'd like to see your report. The reviews often indicated there was no way to tell if it was functional,. Low or dead battery etc. If I throw one end of a live extension cord intro the lake, will it go off? Any indication of functional radius? Obviously that depends on the source of electricity. My impression is that if that live extension cord fell into the lake, the related GFCI breaker would pop. We're in the midst of dock upgrades, totally new wiring, adding power pedestals, etc. so this is timely discussion for us.
According to the directions a simple test of functionality is to simply hold near a cell phone charger or any electrical outlet and the alarm should sound.

Yes in a perfect scenario your GFCI should trip if a cord falls in the water and so should the breaker in you electrical panel. Unfortunately GFCI need maintenance and I have replaced a few at my home after testing because they either wouldn't go off or wouldn't reset. As an fyi, I check my GFCI at least yearly...how many people do that??...

I figured for $79.00 it's a very cheap but valuable addition to home safety...

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Old 07-14-2020, 06:54 PM   #4
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I looked into this extensively a little while ago. ESD = Electric Shock Drowning

People don't realize that the worse case combination for ESD is fresh water and AC shore power.

Here is one of many links:
https://www.electricshockdrowning.org/esd--faq.html

Lots of information and other links here:
https://www.electricshockdrowning.or...resources.html

a link from Boat US:
https://www.boatus.com/seaworthy/mag...-explained.asp

A link from the ABYC:
https://abycinc.org/blogpost/1678504...u-Need-To-Know


Unfortunately, the experts suggest that there be no swimming near any marina that has shore power to boats as the only safe choice.

Alarms and detectors give a false sense of security, and only help if a pre-existing issue is in place before you get into the water. They don't help protect swimmers if a fault occurs while people are in the water.

Consider this, if you are at a dock with shore power, and someone is in the water, what will happen if a shore power cord is dropped into the water by accident. Bzzzzz! ESD.

What happens if an electrical failure occurs just when a battery charger turns on, or a refrige or A/C unit energizes, or a hot water heater turns on while swimmers are in the water. Bzzzzz! ESD.

A detector in these cases turns into a 'Electrocution indictor" instead of a warning to stay out of the water.

People in the water hearing an alarm, or feeling an electrical current or any problem will try to swim towards the dock and apparent safety. In reality, they may be swimming towards the electric field and that tingling that they are feeling or alarm that they hear could end up as ESD.

Now some say they have been swimming around docks and boats all their lives and never had a problem. Other's will say a GFCI or ELCI will protect you. Perhaps. But the experts say it's not worth the risk.

What if it's one of your family members that is hurt?

I suggest to educate each boater and each person at any dock where shore power is available so that they are well aware of the dangers. Then let them make their own educated decisions. Many marinas institute no swimming policy's from their docks where shore power is available.

But I wouldn't suggest one of these alarms after reading the background information on them. I agree that they can give a false sense of security. They could fail.

But other's think they are good enough for their lives and the lives of their family.
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Old 07-14-2020, 07:15 PM   #5
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But I wouldn't suggest one of these alarms after reading the background information on them. I agree that they can give a false sense of security. They could fail.

But other's think they are good enough for their lives and the lives of their family.
So let me make sure I got this straight Rich....your saying I am better off not getting one of these Safety devices because of the false sense of security?? One of these safety alarms could fail and someone could get electrocuted? So my choices if I care about my family are...

A: Don’t allow anyone to swim at my island home ever.

B: Don’t do anything

Hmmmm....I think I’ll go my route and take my chances. After all a safety device that works 50% of the time is better than nothing....

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Old 07-15-2020, 08:20 AM   #6
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So let me make sure I got this straight Rich....your saying I am better off not getting one of these Safety devices because of the false sense of security?? One of these safety alarms could fail and someone could get electrocuted? So my choices if I care about my family are...

A: Don’t allow anyone to swim at my island home ever.

B: Don’t do anything

Hmmmm....I think I’ll go my route and take my chances. After all a safety device that works 50% of the time is better than nothing....

Dan
Be educated and smart about it.

If it was your private dock and no other boats are involved, then you can be more sure of the condition of your boat than at a Marina where there is less control and more boats.

Perhaps a safer thing to do would be to switch off the shore power to the dock while people are swimming, or get the alarm and I hope all your equipment is in good order, also be sure the alarm is functioning as well as your GFCI is functioning.

But either way, please understand the issues at hand (read those links). A failure can happen when you least expect it.
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Old 07-15-2020, 10:27 AM   #7
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So I have a question

How far will current travel in water? Example - my neighbor two doors down has shore power for his boat, if he has a problem will the current reach my swimming area about 400' - 500' away? I would guess the resistance of the water would have a lot to do with how far it will travel.
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Old 07-15-2020, 10:49 AM   #8
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So I have a question

How far will current travel in water? Example - my neighbor two doors down has shore power for his boat, if he has a problem will the current reach my swimming area about 400' - 500' away? I would guess the resistance of the water would have a lot to do with how far it will travel.
That is almost impossible to answer as there are too many variables. Google it for the hell of it and you will see what I mean. I do know that the it travels farther in salt water, I also know that the cleaner (less minerals) the water the less it will travel.

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Old 07-15-2020, 11:59 AM   #9
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That is almost impossible to answer as there are too many variables. Google it for the hell of it and you will see what I mean. I do know that the it travels farther in salt water, I also know that the cleaner (less minerals) the water the farther it will travel.

Dan
Yes it would travel further in Salt water as it's more conductive. The cleaner the water the less conductive / more resistive it is.

Maybe I'll measure the conductivity of the lake this weekend and try to answer my own question. I'm a water guy and know a few things on that end but I'm not an electrical engineer
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Old 07-15-2020, 02:08 PM   #10
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Yes it would travel further in Salt water as it's more conductive. The cleaner the water the less conductive / more resistive it is.

Maybe I'll measure the conductivity of the lake this weekend and try to answer my own question. I'm a water guy and know a few things on that end but I'm not an electrical engineer
Please keep us posted. I agree with Dan--this is really important and google is no help. Even knowing ball numbers--10', 100', 1000' would be great
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Old 07-15-2020, 02:31 PM   #11
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From what I understand (and I could be wrong), the difference with salt vs fresh water is that the salt water can conduct the current easier, so it could go to ground sooner.

With fresh water, it creates a voltage gradient that is stronger at the source, and dissipates as you are further from the source. So if you are swimming away from a dock. you feel a tingling, and as you start heading back towards the dock and apparent safety, you are actually swimming towards the problem, then your muscles get locked up and you can't swim, nor call for help. Some of the reference materiel suggests that many apparent drownings near marinas, docks, etc. may have been caused by undetected intermittent electrical issues.

I'll have to search those links I included for descriptions of all of this, but this is from my memory of researching it a year or two ago, but for some reason I seem to recall that from a number in the order of hundred(s) of feet away from the electrical current source and you could be away from a danger zone in fresh water. I'm not sure if the number is 100, 200, or 500. Before anyone uses this information, I'd suggest that you do your own research. I'm sure the distance varies greatly, depending on the conductivity of the water, the amount of AC current or leakage into the water, voltage involved, and probably several other unknown factors.

Here's the background on the 'green light' or 'safe to swim' warning devices:

https://www.electricshockdrowning.or...t-devices.html

Quote:
Monitoring devices used as a “green light” to indicate it is safe to swim around electrified docks will put a lot of people at great risk. Staying out of these potentially dangerous waters for recreation is the only way to eliminate the risk. If used solely to alert an owner that there are electrical safety problems on the dock, then the ESDPA fully supports their use. But NEVER as a “green light” for swimming or other in-water activity.
Personally, I think a private dock is a much different story than a shared dock with multiple boats.

If anyone comes up with more information, such as a report that states a safe distance in fresh water, I'd like to know the source please. For example, I'm told that a popular lake marina doesn't allow swimming from their docks. but has a nearby beach or designated area where swimming is allowed.

This link says no recreational swimming within 150 feet of a dock with shore power:

https://www.electricshockdrowning.or...tober_2019.pdf

Here's another presentation on ESD that is easier to read as it's all slides and bullet points, and has minimum 'fine print'. It also states 150 ft as a minimum distance from a shore power dock:

http://electricshockdrowningmn.com/D...08-16-2018.pdf
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Old 07-15-2020, 02:52 PM   #12
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Please keep us posted. I agree with Dan--this is really important and google is no help. Even knowing ball numbers--10', 100', 1000' would be great
So as I continue to wonder - what about all the power cables that run from the mainland to the islands? Yes of course they meet codes but think about a failure there......

I know we hear about Marina's having issues every year but has there been a story of a pump in a lake doing the same thing? Also, most homes in NH have well pumps. If I'm thinking about this correctly the pump is always submersed in the well, the water in the well runs into the house, there is no stop gap between the pump in the well and the water coming out of the faucet. Keep in mind the pump casing is in the ground and the copper piping may be tied to an earth ground as well.

I know my well pump at home is not on a GFI but is grounded through my panel but what if the pump shorts and the breaker does not pop?

Kind of thinking out loud here - I have sources for answers I will reach out to but the subject is interesting to me and if there are any electrical engineers out there that can add some thoughts I'd appreciate it.
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Old 07-15-2020, 03:30 PM   #13
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My thanks to all who have brought this tragic and deadly topic to our attention. Truth be told, itís not something I have thought about seriously, and now I am going to do research on it. With 3 teenagers in the family who all love water activities, itís imperative that they are aware of the dangers with electricity/docks/marinas and swimming where itís risky. Again, thanks for the heads up!
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Old 07-15-2020, 03:38 PM   #14
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My thanks to all who have brought this tragic and deadly topic to our attention. Truth be told, itís not something I have thought about seriously, and now I am going to do research on it. With 3 teenagers in the family who all love water activities, itís imperative that they are aware of the dangers with electricity/docks/marinas and swimming where itís risky. Again, thanks for the heads up!
You made my day!

Thank You!

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Old 07-15-2020, 03:41 PM   #15
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For about $21.25 isn't the Klein ncvt-2, non-contact voltage tester, a small easy-to-use tool for testing aluminum docks, or aluminum boat lifts without getting into the water? By holding it to up to the aluminum dock or aluminum boat lift or outboard/inboard motor, it should indicate if there is any voltage present by both making a loud beep and a red light.

...... the Klein ncvt-2 made by Klein Tools, quality electrician tools ....... $21.25 ....... sold at Lowe's, Home Depot, some hardware stores,
Amazon, Ebay

Would like to get some comments on this.
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Old 07-15-2020, 03:56 PM   #16
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So here is the thing.... it is simple as much as reasonable possible keep electricity away from the water...... While there may be an allure to having docks or a power outlet on your dock, why do you believe you need it. Can you solve the problem another way?

In a Marina setting, where boats need shore power because people live on them etc. It has to be a concern and I get that.

But should your average citizen have a need to have power down at their dock? I don't think so.... But yet I know many do it. I don't even pull an extension cord down on my dock to charge a battery if I know people are going to be swimming.

None of this is rocket science... be smart....

If your concerned about it, an alarm like ishoot308 posted seems like a reasonable investment, and helps with piece of mind, to make sure there is no consistent threat. What can't be prevented however is when an electrical line becomes suddenly exposed, and all hell breaks loose until what ever breaker of fuse it is connected to blows.... There is simply nothing you can do, to be 100% safe... Giving yourself a piece of mind is what you need to look at.
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Old 07-15-2020, 04:33 PM   #17
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So here is the thing.... it is simple as much as reasonable possible keep electricity away from the water...... While there may be an allure to having docks or a power outlet on your dock, why do you believe you need it. Can you solve the problem another way?

In a Marina setting, where boats need shore power because people live on them etc. It has to be a concern and I get that.

But should your average citizen have a need to have power down at their dock? I don't think so.... But yet I know many do it. I don't even pull an extension cord down on my dock to charge a battery if I know people are going to be swimming.

None of this is rocket science... be smart....

If your concerned about it, an alarm like ishoot308 posted seems like a reasonable investment, and helps with piece of mind, to make sure there is no consistent threat. What can't be prevented however is when an electrical line becomes suddenly exposed, and all hell breaks loose until what ever breaker of fuse it is connected to blows.... There is simply nothing you can do, to be 100% safe... Giving yourself a piece of mind is what you need to look at.
I did receive some feedback on the issue of electricity in and around the lake. Although I'm very interested in passing the information along I don't feel comfortable putting it out here on the forum due to that nature of the subject.

I'm going to say what the others have - be safe and practice sound judgement. Consult a licensed electrician if you have any concerns around your waterfront and electricity at all.
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Old 07-15-2020, 04:37 PM   #18
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Some boat lifts run on 110-volts with a ground fault interrupter on shore, installed by the home owner, and with all the wakes and waves action happening is possible for a short circuit or an open hot. A gfi that is not grounded correct will probably not interrupt as designed.
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Old 07-15-2020, 05:04 PM   #19
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Some boat lifts run on 110-volts with a ground fault interrupter on shore, installed by the home owner, and with all the wakes and waves action happening is possible for a short circuit or an open hot. A gfi that is not grounded correct will probably not interrupt as designed.
We had a GFI that stopped interrupting. No damage done; we stumbled on the issue and fixed it. But still...
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Old 07-15-2020, 06:19 PM   #20
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We had a GFI that stopped interrupting. No damage done; we stumbled on the issue and fixed it. But still...
If the GFI stops working shouldnít the breaker in the panel kick off as a secondary Line of safety?

Just curious...

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Old 07-15-2020, 07:19 PM   #21
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If a gfci breaker or outlet is not wired correctly it will almost never allow it self to set.

They do go bad and usually fail open but that's why there is a test button we all ignore.

The normal breakers do nothing other than trip if the current flow exceeds the rating; they are there to protect the wires. They do not trip based on anything with the grounding unless it's a dead short or close to it.
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Old 07-16-2020, 09:35 AM   #22
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Unfortunate but timely to the discussion.... https://www.azfamily.com/news/boat-o...4482de9e5.html


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Old 07-17-2020, 06:26 PM   #23
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Default ESD, some clarification on a couple of posts

The issue of ESD is a very serious one. A couple of clarifications of previous posts:

To Fatlazyless: A GFCI breaker or outlet does not require a properly wired (or any) ground wire to function. In fact using a GFCI outlet is one of the few ways approved by the National Electric Code of connecting a three prong (grounded) 120V outlet to a wiring system with no safety ground wire, such as old two wire Romex with no ground or really old knob and tube wiring you still might find in a farm house.

Now obviously, some unqualified person could come up with a way to "connect" the GCFI so it never trips, although the design makes that difficult. And the early GCFI's were notorious for failing to protect, particularly after a nearby lightning strike or other surge. Newer devices are supposed to be more failsafe. But that is why the "test" button is there.

The GFCI senses the difference in current between the hot conductor and the neutral conductor. Normally they are equal. However if there is a ground fault leakage current, some of the current is flowing from the hot conductor to the ground leak and not through the neutral so the currents are not equal. This causes the GFCI to trip. Personnel protection GFCI's (class "A" devices) will trip with a leakage current present of 4 to 6 mA (that is 4 to 6 thousandths of an amp) if they are functioning properly. Since they sense the difference current they do not require a ground wire to function.

Be aware that online sources (not verified) claim that most humans can feel a "tingle" when immersed with as little as 1 mA flowing through their body (not enough to trip the GCFI) and as little as 10 mA is claimed to result in muscular paralysis, probably resulting in drowning. Not a lot of safety threshold between the trip point of the GCFI and the paralysis point.

To Ishoot: the current to trip a ordinary 15 or 20 amp circuit breaker "quickly", a fault current as opposed to an overload is in the range of hundreds or thousands of amperes. To get these kinds of currents to flow through "fresh" water, the immersed hot conductor and a metallic ground path would have to be quite close together. There are many, many cases of ESD where investigation has determined that the electrified immersed metallic item was probably electrified for a very extended period of time without ever tripping a non GFCI breaker. An ordinary breaker will carry 110% of its rated current forever.

One of the reasons why ESD can be so dangerous is that it is not uncommon for the fault to be intermittent in nature. Particularly on larger craft that have many 120V (or even 120/240V) devices. For instance, the heating element in a hot water heater faults to ground (a common failure in all hot water heaters) or the element in a stove similarly faulting. Only providing current when it is on. Or a defective lamp or light fixture, or a portable cord that is pinched to a metal deck plate. Only live when plugged in, and even then possibly intermittent.

As a licensed Professional Electrical Engineer (now retired) I'd say the only safe strategy is to keep 120V electric wiring away from your shoreline and don't allow anyone in the water anywhere close to any wiring that is or could become energized. Electricity and water just do not mix well!

Regarding the detection device, as others have pointed out, by the time any such device has alarmed, it is too late for those already in the water. The total lack of any listing by any recognized testing laboratory (UL, etc) is a red flag to me. And their own webpage says you should stay out of the water when electric devices are connected, alarm or no alarm.
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Old 07-17-2020, 08:46 PM   #24
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Panjumbie,

Great info! Thank you very much for your expert input! It is much appreciated!

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Old 07-18-2020, 09:20 AM   #25
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Panjumbie,

Thanks for adding good useful information to this thread.
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Old 07-18-2020, 10:03 AM   #26
fatlazyless
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I have noticed that indoor swim pools do not have any wall outlets inside the pool room per the electric code

So with all the stray voltage present in the water at marinas and yacht clubs, they post signs that say 'No Swimming' since they are all about boating.
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Last edited by fatlazyless; 07-19-2020 at 04:53 PM.
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