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7/8/2017
Nat’l code requires signs warning of electric currents at facilities: City to consider whether to prohibit swimming also
A youth jumps into Thomas Basin on June 14, 2016. In the background is the Thomas Basin boat harbor. The 2017 National Electrical Code is requiring the installation of safety signs at all approaches to marinas, boatyards and docking facilities where electrical wiring is present. The City of Ketchikan is considering whether to also prohibit swimming at its port and harbors facilities as an additional safety precaution. The topic is scheduled to be discussed by the city Port and Harbors Advisory Board at its regular meeting Tuesday. Staff photo by Taylor Balkom


By ZACHARY HALASCHAK
Daily News Staff Writer

A sign of the times?

New signage requirements could spur discussion of change in municipal code that would ban swimming in the City of Ketchikan’s port and harbors.

The Port and Harbors Advisory Board will be discussing the issue at an upcoming Tuesday meeting. The possible change is due to federal regulations that stipulate what signage must be present around areas with potentially dangerous electric currents.

According to a memorandum published prior to Tuesday’s meeting, the 2017 National Electrical Code: “Requires safety signage to be installed at all approaches to marinas, boatyards, and docking facilities, both commercial and noncommercial, where electrical wiring is present.”

Currently swimming is not prohibited at port and harbors facilities, with some in the community using the areas as a place to take a quick dip. Or, in some cases, jump from up high and make a splash.

According to the memorandum by Steve Corporon, port and harbors director, at a minimum the city must provide signs warning the public of the electrical currents. The document also notes that the Electric Shock Drowning Prevention Association (ESDPA) recommends banning swimming in these areas as well.

Corporon wrote that, “staff intends to procure and install signs with the minimum required wording unless the Port and Harbors Advisory Board and City Council desire to include the ‘no swimming’ wording.”

It is up to the Port and Harbors Advisory Board to recommend, and the Ketchikan City Council to consider, which direction to take. If they decide to proceed with the minimum required signage, not much would change for swimmers. But, if the council decides to go with “no swimming” signs, council members would have to revise municipal code and prohibit the activity.

It may come as a shock to the hundreds of residents who have swam in the city’s port and harbors facilities, but electrical wiring around the area can be potentially very dangerous.

In June of this year, a 19-year-old man from Ohio and a 10-year-old girl from New Jersey died in separate incidents after being electrocuted in the water near boats.

These deaths, among others, have spread awareness for the rarely considered danger.

According the ESDPA website, there have been a number of deaths because of people, often children, swimming in areas where there could be electric currents.

“The ESDPA strongly discourages swimming around boats, docks, and marinas that use AC electrical power for any purpose,” the website reads. “Swimming around boats, docks, or marinas using AC electrical power should be strictly prohibited.”

For now, interested parties will just have to tread water and wait until Tuesday’s meeting to see what is recommended.

The meeting begins at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, in the harbormasters office at Bar Harbor. The public is welcome to attend.