“Have an electrical contractor come out, make sure the GFCIs (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters) work, make sure a wires not severed or hanging in the water. Those are the obvious things,” Kelley said. “The more people who take responsibility it's going to be better for everybody."
With high water conditions finally subsiding at the Lake of the Ozarks and summer approaching, a certified electrician instructor and local dock owner is encouraging dock owners to have their docks inspected before hitting the water this season.
Tim Kelley, an instructor at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local One Training Center, said it’s crucial to have the basics inspected after considerable time away from a property, weather events and the natural undulation and water level changes of the Lake. The IBEW is considered Missouri’s largest source of licensed electrical contractors.
“Have an electrical contractor come out, make sure the GFCIs (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters) work, make sure a wire is not severed or hanging in the water. Those are the obvious things,” Kelley said. “The more people who take responsibility it’s going to be better for everybody. I can do that here, but I have no clue on that dock over there.”
With more than 25,000 docks permitted by Ameren Missouri, the responsibility for dock inspections falls to local fire protection districts and some municipalities. And just because your dock is electrically safe doesn’t mean your neighbor’s will be.
“Electricity shows no discrimination. It will take the path of least resistance to get back to whence it came,” Kelley explained. “What happens when conductors make contact with the water, dirty water now is a conductor of electricity and can travel through one dock, hit the water and if it’s not properly grounded and bonded, not GFCI protected, it goes through the water through the easiest path to get back to that utility transformer. Somebody in that path is when shock hazards occur or fatality electrocution.”
Significant danger can occur near docks when unprotected electrical wiring snaps or is destroyed by elements including water, circuit panels become inundated, GFCIs are broken or infrastructure is not fully grounded and bonded — meaning interconnected and anchored in the ground with a rod, Kelley explained.
Kelley recommends using sun-protected, flexible PVC piping to cover electrical wiring on docks, connecting welded pieces of metal with braided cable to avoid snapping and to create bonding, placing panel boxes high off the structure and regular inspections to ensure electrical integrity.
“The thing with electricity is it’s not seen. We can’t see the force, and that’s what makes it so dangerous. Unfortunately, people lose their lives,” Kelley said. “Electricity has to go back to where it came from, always seeks its way back. If you open a circuit the current will not flow — it’s a big circle. If it’s broken in any way, it will not go back (on the original path). If you complete that path, that’s (also) where the shock hazards occur.”
The Electrical Connection offers the following tips to homeowners and businesses affected by recent flooding or high water events.
— Always ask for credentials to ensure the repair service is fully licensed.
— Call your insurance company first to find out what your insurance will cover and identify their procedures for how it will be covered.
— Never enter a basement with standing water that is in contact with electrical systems.
— With the immense volume of rain, water has been able enter homes from faulty rooftop flashing to basements and in many cases the water trickles down electrical cables into fixtures. These fixtures, while they may look dry, should be inspected.
— The nonmetallic-sheathed cable (Romex) wiring used in most dwellings has a paper-type material on the inside that will absorb water. Even though the appliance or outlet may look dry, the wiring may be completely wet.
— Any flickering lights may be a sign of hidden water damage and not be used until inspected and repair.
— Flooded sockets will have to be replaced as the waters could corrode the device and insulation.
— All dishwashers and laundry machines must be on ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCI) circuits.