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Safety Tips

Prepare for a Season of Safe Boating

The weather is starting to warm up, and it's time to get your boat in order and prepare for a season of safe boating. To ensure a safe season on the water, there are a variety of safety items that you must legally have on board your watercraft—including life vests, fire extinguishers, a throwable floatation device, and properly working lights. However, the list should not end there.

Also make sure that the dock area is safe. This means making sure electrical connections are properly installed and safely maintained. Even if you are just renting the dock, it is important that you notify the dock owner of any safety violations so that they can be fixed immediately. If the owner will not make the corrections or properly maintain the dock, you might strongly consider moving your boat to a dock that will.

Take the story of a 13-year-old Oklahoma boy who died after he jumped from a boat dock into a lake to swim. The dock lights were on at the time. He immediately surfaced and was screaming, then submerged and did not resurface. An adult who entered the water to assist the boy felt an electrical current and called to others to turn off the dock lights. Power company employees inspected the electrical system for the dock lights, and they identified a short in the wiring. The wiring was in contact with the dock's metal frame and transmitted sufficient electrical current into the water to cause a shock. The medical examiner listed the boy's cause of death as drowning, possibly secondary to electrical shock.

Wet environments are particularly dangerous when it comes to electricity. While regulations might vary by location, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) state that electricity-related drowning can be prevented by regularly inspecting for ground-fault failure and by strictly enforcing the National Electric Code through frequent inspections of pools and docks.