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Swimming Pools: Hidden Dangers Lurk Below the Surface


Faulty pool lighting and bad wiring are the greatest electrical threats to safety, but can easily be eliminated by regular inspection, maintenance and adherence to local and national codes.

By Paul Netter

Don’t swim with shocks.

It’s a nice play on words in a Consumer Product Safety Commission fact sheet, but there’s nothing nice about the hidden dangers it warns of in and around swimming pools with the summer in full swing. The spring electrocution of a 7-year-old boy in his family’s Miami swimming pool is a tragic worst-case example, but another non-fatal Miami accident where three children were badly shocked is instructive as well.

Faulty pool lighting and bad wiring, respectively, are suspected in both accidents. In fact,underwater lights and their wiring are the greatest potential electrical hazards inside a pool since it can’t be said enough that water and electricity don’t mix. A pane of glass and a rubber seal are often swimmers’ only protection from electrical wiring.

Any water inside the underwater light fixture — the presence of mold or rust, buzzing noises or flickering lights is a tip-off — is very dangerous, but so is a power system that is not well-grounded and aging or corroded wires. These risks are only heightened if lighting and circuits aren’t protected by Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCIs). And older pools may not only have degraded lighting fixtures, but also may not have GFCIs on underwater lighting circuits. If these issues exist, they should be updated immediately.

“People should have a qualified electrician inspect their underwater lights to make sure that junction boxes and wiring connections are properly and safely installed,” said Don Neal, director of Corporate Environmental, Health and Safety at Southern California Edison (SCE), which also offers a pool-pump rebate program to assist customers. “In addition to fixing any problems, that electrician should upgrade your pool, as well as your hot tub or spa, in accordance with local codes and the National Electrical Code.”

GFCIs should also be used on pumps and electrical equipment, such as heaters, used with pools, spas and hot tubs and on all outlets within 20 feet of the water’s edge to protect people from shocks.

These are all very important steps because there have been 60 electrocutions and nearly 50 serious electrical shocks in and around swimming pools in the U.S. since 1990, according to the safety commission. The commission said some of the deaths and shocks occurred during attempted rescues of shock victims because the rescuers were unaware of the electrical hazards.

Another safe move is to have an electrician downgrade pool lighting from a potentially deadly 120 volts to 12 volts. The 120-volt lighting systems are particularly prevalent in older pools and GFCIs are recommended on any lighting system 15 volts or greater.

“The lower voltage is simply less dangerous,” said Neal “In case of a broken glass or leakage into an underwater light, you should avoid having 120 volts introduced into your water. Landscape lighting should also be powered by a low-voltage system to prevent shocks on a rain-soaked lawn.”

A well-ground power system is also very important since it adds critical protection by guaranteeing that if something goes wrong, the power flows to the ground and not to those in the pool.

“Pool owners should also make sure that electrical wires and junction boxes are a minimum of five feet away from water, as also required by the National Electrical Code,” said Neal.

As for other hazards outside the water, a permanent or storable pool should never be built or set up underneath power lines (if this exists, there are clearance requirements, but pool owners should consult their local inspection agency). Long-handled cleaning tools also should be used away from power lines and electrical cords should be kept at least five feet away from the pool.

Neal offers an additional warning on the electrical cords, suggesting that, “When possible, people should use battery-operated appliances and not cord-connected ones in and around a pool, spa or hot tub.”

Meanwhile, pool owners should always have an emergency plan within view of pool users and power switches should be labeled for pool, hot tub and spa equipment and lighting so they can be turned off quickly during an electrical emergency. In addition, a fiberglass Shepherd’s crook should be used to remove any victims from the water, CPR should be administered and 911 should be called.

As for rescuers not taking these precautions, they risk serious injury if they touch a conductive fixture or enter the water before the current is stopped.

“Pool electrical accidents are easily prevented,” said Neal. “But pool owners must follow state-mandated codes, conduct proper inspection and maintenance and use qualified electricians to achieve that prevention.”


AGED Summit Returns for Its Second Year

Karen Bass

Karen Bass

LOS ANGELES, CA – United States Congresswoman Karen Bass, now in her second term representing California’s 37th Congressional District, will continue her steadfast support for innovative job creation and economic development in both the U.S. and Africa, when she delivers a keynote address to a historic assemblage of African business leaders, bankers, entrepreneurs, investors, high-level government leaders and regulatory officials, along with their American counterparts, at the African Global Economic and Development Summit (AGED Summit), which will be hosted by Global Green Development Group (GGDG) at the University of Southern California (USC) from August 7 through August 9, 2014.

Experts agree that Africa is on the brink of an expansive economic growth period.  In recognition of this, the AGED Summit returns for its 2nd year at USC by welcoming Rep. Bass to participate in a unique three-day gathering among a diverse and synergistic group of stakeholders in African economic development, which is profoundly impacting the prospects for job creation and entrepreneurial opportunities in California and elsewhere in the U.S.   As Rep. Bass notes, “Africa is currently home to 6 out of the 7 fastest growing economies in the world and is viewed by investors from Europe, Malaysia, China, India, Turkey and Brazil as a priority region for investment.”  She went on to say that investment in Africa helps Americans as well.  As the Ranking Member of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa, Rep. Bass recognizes that U.S. trade agreements with Africa, such as the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), are “critically important for many reasons. First it supports jobs across the continent. There are some 300,000 jobs attached to AGOA and many of those are jobs that go to African women. If you count the jobs that are indirectly linked to AGOA that number rapidly approaches one million or more jobs.”  Regarding the impact of AGOA in the U.S., Rep. Bass pointed out that, “AGOA can only serve to facilitate greater trade and investment with the United States.  It can be a win-win for both African nations and the U.S. if we truly recognize and seize the opportunity.”

Unique among forums on Africa, the AGED Summit presents an enabling environment, which demystifies the process of doing business in Africa by bringing together entrepreneurs, investors, financiers, investment guarantors and other necessary linkages in order to actually position transactions to be structured and completed in a manner that maximizes safety without compromising profitability. “Whether you’re a multinational corporation or a small entrepreneur, everything required to put together a business deal with Africa will be available through the AGED Summit”, says Mary Flowers, CEO of GGDG. This year’s theme is “Walking the Talk”.

Among other outstanding agenda items, the AGED Summit will highlight ways for attendees to tap into the U.S. Government’s “Power Africa Initiative” that has committed over $7 billion to add more than 10,000 megawatts of clean, efficient electricity generation capacity to sub-Saharan African countries. The need is tremendous since the installed power capacity of all of sub-Saharan Africa is less than that of Delaware.  Regarding Power Africa, which she has championed since its announcement last year, Rep. Bass says, “Power Africa and Trade Africa, ultimately are aimed at strengthening the capacity of Africa to trade locally, regionally and internationally.”

African-Soul Singer Launches New Album and Track Featuring Rapper Common


Few contemporary albums bare as particular a narrative as The Lagos Music Salon. The new album by the superb chanteuse Somi, finds her breaking new ground with a hybrid style of music that organically integrates the essence of jazz and soul with the musical depth of her African heritage.

The Lagos Music Salon (available Tuesday, August 5th) marks Somi’s major label debut for Sony’s OKeh Records and features a range of originals that are sublimely melodic, percussively textured.  A socially informed and adventurous vocalist, Somi sings with a soulful beauty about her experiences in Lagos. While there, she kept a journal of her observations and collaborated with a community of musicians, writers and artists who helped her to envision what would become The Lagos Music Salon.

The album covers a broad swath of styles and features a number of carefully matched guest performances. These include a fast-paced groove with Afro-pop sensibilities on the Fela Kuti-inspired “Lady Revisited” with Angelique Kidjo, and a rap-inflected cinematic reflection on Africa’s pollution, “When Rivers Cry,” that features Common.

For more information on Miss Somi, please visit www.somimusic.com.