BETTER SAFE THAN SORRY

If you listened to the show last week, you know that my wife and I dodged a huge bullet.  Our children were swimming in our pool and as they were swimming toward the deep end, they began yelling at each other that they both felt like they were getting zapped with electricity.  They immediately got out of the pool and my wife called me at the office in a panic.

I immediately called on of our show’s sponsors, Elcon Electic to get out to my house and see what in the world was going on.  They raced over.  As soon as the electrician got there, he noticed that all of the electricity in the backyard was not working and a ground wire that should have been attached to my pool pump was simply sitting on the side, disconnected.  I literally froze.  The problem was real, my kids weren’t imaging anything, and somehow, some way they were shocked with electricity while swimming in my pool and lived to tell about it.  Believe me, my wife and I are still shook up.

Like probably all of you, I have a “pool guy” that cleans the pool.  Over the years, if a problem comes up, like a blown pump, he tells me about it, let’s me know he can put one in, and I say “of course, please fix it.”  Well…..I was wrong.  Very wrong.

I’m no electrician, so in layman’s terms I will tell you that Elcon also realized my wiring to the pump motor was installed incorrectly.  The outdoor outlets were not GFI outlets and they should have been.  Most importantly, they now installed a sensor that grounds the water supply and immediately shuts off the power should there be any electrical charge in the water.  I was told in a nice way that when it comes to cleaning the pool and putting in the chemicals, the pool guy or pool company is qualified to do that.  However, when it comes to doing anything that mixes water and electricity, that needs to be done by a licensed electrician.  Period.  There is no room for error.  So, needless to say, when the motor on your pool pump goes out next time, please call an electrician.  While at your property, ask them to make sure that the pool is safe and properly grounded to avoid a potential catastrophe.

I know that we often times feel bothered when our local municipality asks us to pull a permit and get an inspection for repairs in our home.  I know we sometimes think that many jobs are small, the city is over reacting and you don’t need to be a graduate of M.I.T. to perform the repair.  There’s a reason however that licenses are required for certain skilled professions and why the county or municipality employs experts to make sure the repairs being done at your home are being done right.  The reason is simple.  It saves lives.  Take it from my wife and I.

Michael Berkman is the former Chief Building Official and Code Enforcement Officer for for Boca Raton, Sunny Isles Beach and North Bay Village.  I told him what happened and here are his thoughts:

I can’t begin to tell you the importance of pool maintenance; especially where the electrical system is concerned. Pool lighting, in an outside pool is critical but there are also unseen dangers such as ungrounded pumps, reinforcing wire and bar, ungrounded pool ladders and power outlets around the pool deck. Electrical  companies have the proper equipment and know how to make sure that all is electrically well with your pool. This is not a Do It Yourself  activity. So, I would suggest that pool owners get their systems checked out every few years. Stuff happens in the ground such as moisture intrusion, corrosion, and just plain old ground movement as well as systemic wear. Regular pool maintenance companies do not usually do electrical system checks as long as the pump and filter work, so it is up to the owner to get it checked out. I’m glad you found this out before your kids or someone was seriously injured. Death by electrocution is possible and has happened, which is why the codes now requires electrical grounding of metallic pool assemblies and components and the use of rated electrical components. You would do a mitzvah by publishing an article.

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