NFPA Reminds Public of Summer Electrical Hazards

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) is reminding people about potential electrical hazards that exist in swimming pools, in hot tubs and spas, onboard boats and in waters surrounding boats, marinas and launch ramps.

Each year people are injured or killed from electrical dangers. Electric shock drowning happens when marina or onboard electrical systems leak electric current into the water. The current then passes through the body and causes paralysis. When this happens, a person can no longer swim and ultimately drowns.

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Here are tips for swimmers, as well as pool and boat owners:

Tips for swimmers

  • Never swim near a marina, dock or boatyard, or near a boat while it’s running.
  • While in a pool, hot tub or spa, look out for underwater lights that are not working properly, flicker or work intermittently.
  • If a tingling sensation is felt while in a pool, immediately stop swimming and head back to where no tingling was felt. Exit the water as quickly as possible and avoid using metal ladders or rails, as touching metal may increase the risk of shock.

Tips for pool owners

  • When putting in a new pool, hot tub or spa, ensure the wiring is performed by an electrician experienced in the special safety requirements for these types of installations.
  • Have a qualified electrician periodically inspect and, where necessary, replace or upgrade the electrical devices or equipment that keep the pool, spa or hot tub electrically safe.
  • Make sure any overhead lines maintain the proper distance over a pool and other structures, such as a diving board.

Tips for boat owners

  • Avoid entering the water when launching or loading a boat. Docks or boats can leak electricity into the water causing water electrification.
  • Each year, and after a major storm that affects the boat, a qualified marine electrician should inspect the vessel’s electrical system to ensure it meets the required codes, including those of the American Boat & Yacht Council. Make any needed repairs. Check with the marina owner who can also report if the marina’s electrical system has recently been inspected to meet the required codes, including the  National Electrical Code® (NEC).
  • Have ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCI) installed on the boat; use only portable GFCIs or shore power cords (including “Y” adapters) that are Marine Listed when using electricity near water. Test GFCIs monthly.

NFPA has additional resources for swimmers, boat and pool owners, including tip sheets, checklists and more that can be downloaded and shared. Visit for more information.

For industry professionals, the 2017 NFPA 70 National Electrical Code® (NEC®) has been revised to improve pool safety and help reduce the risk of ESD. Proposed revisions for the 2020 NEC edition include ground-fault protection in marinas and boatyards. NFPA has additional codes and standards that apply to boats and marinas and their related electrical safety issues. Find these resources and more by visiting NFPA’s NEC webpage.