Canfield family warns about electric shock in pools - WFMJ.com News weather sports for Youngstown-Warren Ohio

Canfield family warns about electric shock in pools

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A Canfield family is passing on a warning after their family pool turned into a dangerous hot spot for dangerous stray electricity. 

Shelly Colucci was lounging by the pool with her son when she noticed something was wrong.

Colucci says she had gotten out of the pool, but decided to dip her toes back in. When she did she noticed a tingling feeling. 

"It started to register with me that somethings not right," she said. "So I pulled my foot out and I stuck my hand in and it started tingling on my hand. And I immediately knew I was getting shocked."

Colucci said the realization was troubling. 

"I immediately started screaming, 'Get out of the pool, get out of the pool. There's electricity in the water. Get your dad,'" Colucci remembers. 

From there, the family called Ohio Edison, who allegedly told them that they were experiencing stray electricity. 

Colucci says the Ohio Edison technicians told her that sometimes stray voltage can occur from underground wires, that have been tampered with or damaged. 

Another common problem that leads to stray voltage is pool wiring, lights, speakers, stereos, or filters that aren't installed properly or have been damaged. 

"I had never even heard of stray voltage," said Colucci. 

But it's not an unheard of phenomenon. In fact, there's a nationwide movement to bring about awareness to the issue. 

It's called Electric Shock Drowning, and in many cases, can lead to deadly accidents. 

Kevin Ritz, the founder of the Electric Shock Drowning Prevention Association, explained ESD as an incident where an electric field in the water shocks a person, leaving them paralyzed and unable to swim. 

"You have to understand that we are 95% salt water, and so when we are in fresh water we are so much more conductive than that water. And if you're between two voltages, the current is going to travel through you," explained Ritz. 

The puzzling part of ESD, according to Ritz, is that the swimmer doesn't need to touch anything in order to conduct the electricity, it travels straight from the water through our bodies. 

ESD can occur in any type of fresh water, including pools and rivers, although it is most frequently seen in lakes that house docks or marinas. 

Ritz founded the national education campaign nearly 19 years ago, after losing his own son to an electric current in the water. 

And although Ritz believes there has been progress made since then, he feels there is a lot of work left to be done. 

One of the issues is that since the phenomenon is lesser known, there's no single agency tracking how many deaths are caused by electric shock drowning, meaning no one knows how big of a concern it is. 

In addition, laws regulations haven't quite caught up. 

"In England, they have ground fault connectors on everything," says Ritz "Guess how many fatalities they're reporting? None."

Which is one of his main suggestions, that pools, docks, and marinas be outfitted only with electricity connected to a ground fault wiring system. 

As for Colucci, she has her own message to pool owners. 

"If you have a pool, safeguard it," she said. 

For her family, that meant investing in a SHock Alert device. 

The fairly new technology can be put inside of the pool water and allowed to drift, or dragged through the water. If an electric current is detected an alarm sounds and lights turn red. 

Ritz explained that while those types of devices can be helpful, they also have their limitations. 

"You never know when an electric current is going to come," he said. "And so if the alarm goes off and everyone is in the pool, guess what, it's too late." 

Ritz notes that in the event of any incident, it's best to know where the power source is for a pool, dock, or marina, and to shut it off. 

ESD causes a secondary concern because rescuers who jump into the water to attempt to save a victim will also be shocked, leading to a potential for more fatalities. 

But immediately shutting off all power can help eliminate that danger. 

"I worked on a case, I remember the girl struggled for seven minutes. The other girl that survived told them she could feel them being shocked. But they couldn't shut off the power. The fuse box was behind a locked door," Ritz said. "There was no way they could do anything and so they were being shocked while they tried to pull the girls out." 

Colucci hopes that while their story ended ok, it will be a warning to others about how dangerous electricity can be, especially when it's impossible to know that it's there. 

For more information on Electric Shock Drowning, including how you can keep your family safe, visit the ESDPA website
 

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