Co-Mo offering dock-safety information, free GFCI tester
Laurie, Mo. (Aug. 9, 2012) — Co-Mo Electric Cooperative is offering a free tool for members to test wiring in places where electricity and water could mix.
The GFCI tester, offered at no cost to Co-Mo members from either of its offices while supplies last, can be plugged into any Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter outlet to help determine if the wiring is done correctly. While it doesn’t guarantee safety, it can help catch many of the problems that result in accidental shocking or electrical fires.
GFCI breakers constantly monitor electricity moving through a circuit. If the current flow differs from what’s returning, the device quickly switches off the power.
Jimmy Jester, safety coordinator at Co-Mo Electric, recommends having a GFCI any place electricity and water could potentially mix, including docks, kitchens, pools, bathrooms, basements, utility rooms or outdoors. They should be installed by qualified, insured electricians.
The GFCI testers are just part of the safety education program Co-Mo offers to teach people how to be wise around electricity. The cooperative’s safety program includes education specialists’ visits to local elementary schools, safety information at its Annual Meeting each May, online resources at co-mo.coop and much more.
The need to re-emphasize electric safety around water came to the forefront this summe rafter fatalities at the Lake of the Ozarks due to improper dock wiring.
Along with the no-cost GFCI tester, Co-Mo is offering a dock education kit to help members with homes near the lake know what to do to create a safer environment for their family, friends and neighbors.
Corey ten Bensel, the cooperative’s Lake District Manager, said that last item — neighbors — is an important thing to note.
“Just because your dock wiring is safe does not mean the water around your dock is safe,” he said.
That’s why the cooperative urges its members who pick up a GFCI tester or buy them at local hardware stores to take them over to their neighbors’ homes and urge them to test their outlets, ten Bensel said.
The dock education kit includes a three-step process to create a safer dock.
The first step is to know the code. The Lake of the Ozarks is governed by Ameren Missouri for the purpose of generating electricity with water. That electricity helps power the region. As part of its responsibility in governing the lake, Ameren has instituted a set of electrical installation requirements for docks on the lake. This set of 28 rules and regulations follows the standards set forth in the 2005 National Electric Code. The dock education kit will include a copy of these regulations, which can be found through Co-Mo’s website by clicking here.
The second step is to get your dock inspected regularly.
“Think of your dock wiring as you would the smoke alarms in your house,” ten Bensel said. “You wouldn’t just put the smoke alarm up and consider the job done for as long as you own your home. You’d test the batteries regularly and change them when they weren’t working.”
Similarly, you shouldn’t consider your dock wiring to be safe without frequent inspection, he said.
“There’s no margin for error in this. A small nick in a wire can create a deadly problem,” ten Bensel said.
In some locations, the local fire protection district offers dock-wiring inspections. But Jester said that members who live in an area where this is not the case should take the initiative and find a qualified, insured electrician to periodically inspect their dock wiring.
The final step in helping ensure dock-wiring safety is to check it yourself. That’s where the GFCI testers come in. Simply plug the tester into a GFCI breaker. Two yellow lights should illuminate. That means the wiring is done correctly. Any other combination of lights indicates a problem that needs to be checked by aqualified, insured electrician.
Next, push the red button on the tester. Electricity should be cut to the things controlled after the breaker. If it does not shut off, call a qualified, insured electrician immediately.
Ten Bensel recommended hanging the GFCI tester in a prominent place by your dock so you remember to check GFCI breakers frequently.
Dennis Reilly, fire chief for the Sunrise Beach Fire Protection District, said this issue needs to stay at the forefront of homeowners’ attention.
“When we come out and do these inspections, if your dock fails, it’s not because we’re trying to be difficult or trying to make you spend a lot of money to fix what we show you is wrong,” he said. “We’re trying to keep you safe.”
ABOUT CO-MO ELECTRIC COOPERATIVE - Co-Mo's service area comprises approximately 2,300 square miles in Central Missouri. Co-Mo exists to fulfill its members’ needs for superior electric and related services at fair and reasonable prices and support its communities through economic, civic and educational opportunities.
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