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Illinois Country Living

Ken Macken is Manager of Safety and Loss Control for the Association of Illinois Electric Cooperatives

Safety & Health:

Don’t swim with shocks
Have a safe swimming season and remember Caitlyn

Her name was Caitlyn MacKenzie and all she was doing was having a great time swimming in a pool with some friends and family. She was 12 years old and was simply enjoying all the fun of summer. It was about 9 o’clock at night and she climbed out of the pool and wanted to go jump on the trampoline. There was a droplight that was put out by the pool to give everyone a bit more light to see by. Caitlyn wanted to reposition the light so that it would shine more on the trampoline area! That turned out to be a tragic and fatal action on her part.

Apparently, there was a short in the light and when Caitlyn touched the light with her wet hands she received 120 volts of electricity across her body trying to find its way back to ground. The sad truth is that the voltage in your home is enough to seriously hurt or potentially kill a person. That evening, at the family pool, 120 volts of electricity took a 12-year-old girl’s life.

As I read this story, I go in my mind to the pool in my back yard that we installed two summers ago. I think how tragic it would be right there in my back yard if a child lost his or her life because of a faulty electrical tool, socket, light or just human error in the misuse or accidental contact with electricity.

We are right in the season when possibly you or others are getting ready to open their pools or maybe buy and have one installed. Here are some things to remember so that you and I “don’t swim with shocks.”

According to the American Red Cross, there have been 60 electrocutions and nearly 50 serious electrical injuries around pools since 1990. They give the following areas where one could find electricity around pools:

• Underwater lights

• Electrical pool equipment-pumps, filters, vacuum, salt generators

• Extension and power cords

• Electrical outlet or switches

• Radios, stereos, TVs

• Overhead power lines

Things to remember about pools and electricity:

• Do not set up a storable pool or install a permanent pool where power lines are overhead or within 25 feet of the water.

• While cleaning the pool, keep long-handled tools and poles away from nearby utility power lines, including the ones leading to your house. Hold long-handled tools and poles as low as possible to the ground.

• Use battery operated products whenever possible around the pool.

• Have a licensed electrician who is qualified do all installs of electrical outlets, breakers and equipment for your pool and pool area.

• Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCIs) are the best protection against electrocution.

• Test permanently installed GFCIs at least monthly to assure continued protection.

• Always have dry hands and feet and wear dry rubber-soled shoes while using electrical products.

• Avoid touching electrical products or wires when you are wet or in contact with wet surfaces.

• If you are going to have a pool in your yard, its probably a good idea for you to learn CPR and rescue-breathing procedures.

Let’s do all we can to have a really safe summer and enjoy those pools and yards safely.


For More Information:

Ken Macken is Manager of Safety and Loss Control for the Association of Illinois Electric Cooperatives,, 217-241-7933.

© 2016 Illinois Country Living Magazine.
Association of Illinois Electric Cooperatives

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