It is that time of year once again, summer! That means for many of us we will find any excuse to make our way to the waterfront. Whether we own a boat, have a friend that owns a boat, or like me, we stand on the other side of the fence and dream of having a boat, there is no question that getting out on the water has a certain appeal to many of us.
But with all the countless hours of joy that being on the water can bring, there is an inherent danger that many of us might not be aware of. Or if we are aware, we might not fully understand or appreciate the amount of work that has gone into keeping us all safe from electrical hazards that may be lurking in the water around our boats. Especially when it comes to marina installations. Electric shock drowning, or ESD, has been an unfortunate headline that has reoccurred time and time again in recent summer history. While this is not only something that happens around marinas and docks, these types of installations tend to get the most attention when it comes to ESD because of the amount of electrical infrastructure that gets installed near the water.
The reason the National Electrical Code (NEC) even exists is to protect people and property from the hazards that electricity presents when we use it to power our world. However, the system needs to work, too. This is a kind of push and pull relationship that exists when we start using electricity near bodies of water. Obviously, the safest situation a marina could have is to just not have electricity near the water. However, today’s boats and the way we use them continues to evolve, and a marina with no power might mean a marina with no boats either. So, Code Making Panel 7 of the NEC has the duty of listening to all sides of this conversation to figure out how best to serve the power needs of marina customers while also protecting these same customers and marina staff from what this demand for power could mean if they end up in the water. One member of CMP 7, Cliff Norton, took the time to sit down with NFPA and discuss the work that went into revising the NEC to best serve the marina industry while keeping people safe.Check out his short interview below:
As long as people continue to flock to the water for recreation and work, we will continue to need the efforts of people like Cliff and the rest of CMP 7 to keep working to find that critical balance of functionality and safety. After all, safety is the number one reason the NEC exists and it must continue to be the first thing we think about when installing electrical systems. No amount of convenience or creature comfort is worth bypassing safety towards ourselves or others. Remember, marinas existed long before we harnessed the power of the electron, they can exist without it.
Learn more about the new requirements for marinas in the 2020 NEC by visiting NFPA's marina webpage. Additional information and resources about marina safety and electric shock drowning, including tip sheets, videos, and more can be found on the "electrical safety around water" webpage.