by Janet Dabbs
Rocky Mount Fire Protection District, RMFPD, personnel responded 2 p.m. Tuesday, July 3 to a residence reporting electricity in the Lake of the Ozarks near their dock.
According to Rocky Mount Fire Chief Kevin Hurtibise, firefighters confirmed AC voltage in the water ranging from 3.5 to 15 volts. “These are life threatening levels,” Hurtibise explained.
No injuries were reported. Prior to fire units arriving, several small children did report feeling electricity in the water. An adult female said she was getting out of the water and, as she reached for the dock ladder, she reported arcing between the ladder and the rings on her hand. She also said she felt electricity.
After the initial investigation, the cause was first thought to be electricity from a breaker panel at the residence feeding to the dock sub-panel, through the ground wire, and then to the dock. However, after working with an electrician, it was later discovered the underlying problem was actually a water heater that was causing voltage to go to the ground wire. “We will inspect the repair before the dock is reconnected,” Hurtibise said. “If you feel electricity in the water, please swim as far away from any dock as possible and exit the water at the shore avoiding metal.”
He advised, if a person is on a dock and someone in the water reports feeling electricity, do the following:
1. Throw a life jacket to the swimmer, if they don’t have one.
2. Go to the dock sub-panel at the shoreline and turn off all breakers in the box.
3. Call 911.
“Electricity in the water is a true emergency,” Hurtibise said. “If you believe you feel electricity, call 911 immediately. It needs to be investigated right away to determine the cause. Conditions between the docks and the lake are changing all the time, the sooner it is checked, the better opportunity there will be of finding the problem and/or saving a life.”
It is advisable to have docks inspected at least once a year by the fire department or a certified electrician. Dock owners are required to have their dock inspected by the fire department if any one of the following happens: The dock is modified in any way; the dock is moved for any reason, including for repairs; and if a home with a dock is sold, the dock must pass current code before the closing date.
For additional information call the RMFPD at 573-392-4301.