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  • Electric Shock Drowning: A Bigger Problem Than Statistics Show

    Electric Shock Drowning (ESD) — or “Dock Shock” — deaths have made the news several times in recent years, but the ESD deaths that you’ve seen in the news may only represent a small number of the actual ESD deaths in Missouri.

    ESD gained public attention in Missouri in 2012 after our state endured three tragic deaths in two separate incidents at the Lake of the Ozarks over Fourth of July Weekend. Since then, families have undertaken advocacy efforts, area dock owners have increased their vigilance, new legislation has been introduced in the Missouri House, and existing national safety codes have been updated.

    Electric Shock Drowning: Only Recently Recognized
    One of the reasons why there’s been a recent increase in ESD prevention and advocacy work is that ESD has only become a recognized problem over the last few years. Missouri has seen drowning deaths in fresh water lakes and rivers that we’ve attributed to intoxication, wearing the wrong clothing, or overestimating swimming ability for generations. Now, though, many experts and wondering how many of those deaths may have been related to ESD.

    The Electric Shock Drowning Prevention Associations (ESDPA) says that, “Since experts recently began tracking this silent killer, there have been over 60 incidents of Electric Shock Drowning [in the U.S.], several near misses, and likely hundreds of deaths that have gone unreported (source).”

    Why Electric Shock Drowning Goes Unreported
    ESD occurs when even a small amount of electricity passes through a person’s body while they’re in the water. The electricity paralyzes the victim, causing them to drown. The reason so many ESD deaths go unreported is that ESD deaths aren’t easy to recognize.

    An ESD death looks just like any other drowning, and the victim’s postmortem examination doesn’t show signs of electric shock. The only way emergency crews or morticians know that a drowning was caused by electricity is when witnesses provide firsthand accounts that tie the drowning to electric shock (source).

    How Many People Have Died from Electric Shock Drowning?
    Quality Marine Services, LLC wrote a report that lists all known ESD deaths and what the authors call “near misses” in the United States. In total, there are more than sixty deaths and several near misses. The Electric Shock Drowning Prevention Association (ESDPA) says that the actual number of ESD deaths is probably much higher.

    “The number of verifiable in-water deaths due to Electric Shock Drowning is, in all likelihood, just the tip of the iceberg,” says the ESDPA (source).

    Electric Shock Drowning in Missouri
    According to the Quality Marine Services report, there have been at least seven ESD deaths and several near misses in Missouri since 2004. Six of those ESD deaths occurred at the Lake of the Ozarks:

    • On June 21, 2015, a 21 year-old man was killed at the Lake of the Ozarks.
    • On July 7, 2012, a 26 year-old woman was killed at the Lake of the Ozarks.
    • On July 4, 2012, a 13 year-old girl and her 8 year-old brother were killed at the Lake of the Ozarks.
    • On July 28, 2007, a 24 year-old woman was killed at the Lake of the Ozarks.
    • On March 18, 2006, a teenage boy (age not given) was killed swimming near Desoto, Missouri.
    • On September, 2004, a 22 year-old man was killed at the Lake of the Ozarks.

    Missouri Drowning Statistics
    There are dozens of accidental drownings in Missouri every year. According to the Missouri State Highway Patrol, there were 29 accidental drowning deaths in Missouri in 2014, 38 in 2013, 21 in 2012, 41 in 2011, and 50 in 2010. That’s 179 accidental drownings in five years.

    Could some of those 179 drowning victims have suffered paralyzing electric shock before drowning? It’s possible, but because ESD is so difficult to identify without witnesses, we’ll probably never know.

    Protect Yourself and Your Family from Electric Shock Drowning
    Your Missouri Electric Cooperatives want you to be able to cool off safely this summer in Missouri’s lakes, rivers, and streams. The best way to ensure that you and your family stay safe from electric shock drowning is to prohibit all swimming near docks, marinas, and boatyards, but you can learn more ways to stay “Safe at the Lake” here.

    Find out more about preventing ESD by reading this post or by visiting the ESDPA’s website.

    Learn More About Your Electric Cooperatives
    You can learn more about Missouri’s Electric Cooperatives, and how we work to provide safe, efficient energy to rural Missouri by following us on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram.

  • Save Money on Your Summer Electric Bill By Making Small Changes

    Does Missouri’s hot and humid summer weather have you sweating this month’s electric bill? You’re not alone. Across the state, Missouri Electric Cooperative Member-Owners use air conditioning to drop the humidity and cool the air, but you also worry about how much your air conditioning will cost when your electric bill comes in.

    Air conditioning is a necessity for your family on Missouri’s hottest summer days, so your Cooperatives are here to tell you how you can save as much money as possible on your summer electric bill without turning off your air. 

    Why Cold Air Escapes Your Home

    Air temperature naturally wants to balance itself out. That’s why frigid air rushes into your house when you open your back door in the winter, and it’s why cold air escapes your home when that same door is opened in the summer.

    The bigger the difference is between inside and outside temperatures, the faster the air moves. The faster the air moves, the less efficient your cooling system becomes. The U.S. Department of Energy website explains that the reverse is also true: the less difference there is between inside and outside temperatures, the more efficient your air conditioning will be.

    “A higher interior temperature will slow the flow of heat into your house, saving energy on air conditioning,” according to the Department’s website.

    Turning your thermostat up just a little bit can make your home noticeably more energy efficient. Boone Electric Cooperative says that turning it up just one degree can save eight percent on your electric, but he higher you can comfortably keep your thermostat set during the summer, the more cost savings your family will see (source).

    Close the Gap Between Indoor & Outdoor Temperatures

    The Department of Energy recommends that you keep your indoor temperature as close as you can to outside temperatures. It also recommends that you set your thermostat to different temperatures when you’re home and away:

    “Set your programmable thermostat as high as is comfortable in the summer and raise the setpoint when you’re sleeping or away from home,” the Department explains. “…the smaller the difference between the indoor and outdoor temperatures, the lower your overall cooling bill will be (source).”

    Missouri’s summertime heat and humidity can feel miserable, but opening your monthly electric bill doesn’t have to feel the same way. Follow these energy efficiency tips to save money on your summer electric bill, and learn more about how Missouri’s Electric Cooperatives work to provide safe, efficient energy to rural Missouri by following us on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram.

  • Missouri Member-Owners’ Peak Load

    Your Missouri Electric Cooperatives work every day to provide you with affordable, reliable electric power. To do that, we embrace a diverse power supply that includes coal, natural gas, wind, solar, and hydroelectric power.

    Nearly 70% of your Cooperative’s energy comes from baseload resources like coal and gas, but Missouri’s Electric Cooperatives rely on clean energy sources, too. In fact, it’s that diversity of baseload and clean energy sources that makes it possible for us to provide you with the safe, reliable, and affordable energy you’ve come to expect from us.

    You see, when we talk about how solar, wind, and hydroelectric power help diversify our power supply, we can’t ignore the fact that the energy from a solar array or wind turbine doesn’t coincide with the times of the day when you, our Member-Owners, need the most electricity.

    The times of the day when you use the most electricity are called your peak load. Across the state, our Member-Owners are “on peak” during the hottest and coldest summer and winter months at the hours of the day when your families are home from school and work.

    Summer Peak Load
    Missouri’s peak summer load occurs during the hottest months of the year: June, July, and August. During those months, Missourians are “on peak” from about 2:00 p.m. through around 10:00 p.m. These are the hottest hours of the day during the hottest months of the year, so it’s not surprising that you and your family are among thousands of Member-Owners who crank up the A/C (and use a lot of electricity) to stay cool.

    Winter Peak Load
    Missouri’s peak winter load comes during the coldest months of the year: December, January, and February. Each day, Missouri Member-Owners like you reach your peak electric usage early in the morning and late in the evening. Specifically, Missouri is “on peak” in the winter from about 7:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. and again from about 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.

    Your Missouri Electric Cooperatives know that reliable, affordable energy — especially on the hottest summer afternoons and the coldest winter mornings and nights — is your highest priority. But we also know that there’s value in renewable energy sources like wind, solar, and hydroelectric power.

    Understanding peak load helps your Missouri Electric Cooperatives to see exactly where renewables like wind and solar can — and can’t — help meet Missouri’s greatest need for electric power.

    Learn more about Missouri’s Electric Cooperatives, and how we work to provide safe, efficient energy to rural Missouri by following us on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram.

  • The EPA’s Clean Power Plan

    In June 2014, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) implemented the United States Clean Power Plan (CPP) as part of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan. If successful, the CPP will reduce carbon emissions in the United States 32% below 2005 levels by the year 2030.

    According to the EPA, “the Clean Power Plan is a historic and important step in reducing carbon pollution from power plants that takes real action on climate change (source).”

    The CPP’s historic relevance isn’t entirely positive, though. It’s the first-ever federal regulation on carbon emission from power plants, and thanks to federal overreach, it might also be the country’s most debated environmental ruling ever.

    Tracy Lester, Professor of Environmental Law and Emerging Technology at University of Houston, Texas, said in a Forbes.com blog post that the CPP rules, “are already probably the most aggressively contested environmental rules in U.S. history (source).”

    Missouri is among the dozens of states, coal companies, electric companies, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce that have filed or joined existing lawsuits against the EPA. The CPP would cost Missouri consumers an estimated 6 billion dollars — or one-quarter of the state’s annual budget — to implement. That’s not a cost the Missouri Electric Cooperative Member-Owners can afford to pay.

    According to Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster:

    “Assuming the EPA’s final compliance standard is even possible, it’s clearly not affordable. . .Not affordable for senior citizens in small towns across Missouri, where Social Security is often the primary source of income. . . Not affordable for Missouri’s economy, whose major competitive advantage in the fight for jobs is our significantly lower energy costs relative to other states (source).”

    On February 9, 2016, the Supreme Court stayed implementation of the Clean Power Plan pending judicial review. That’s a step in the right direction for Missouri, but your Missouri Electric Cooperatives know that it’s not enough. We will continue to advocate at the state and federal level for policies that enable us to provide you, our Member-Owners with the reliable, affordable power that you’ve come to expect.

    You can learn more about Missouri’s Electric Cooperatives, and how we work to provide safe, efficient energy to rural Missouri by following us on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram.

  • What is a GFCI?

    Even if you don’t recognize the name GFCI, you’ve probably seen GFCI outlets in — among other places — hotel bathrooms. GFCIs are the electrical outlets that have the little red “reset” button on them, and they’re most commonly found in bathrooms, kitchens, and other rooms with a water source. If you’ve ever wondered what these “reset” outlets are or why they’re important, keep reading.

    What Does GFCI Stand For?

    GFCI stands for Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter. A GFCI is a special kind of electrical outlet that can help prevent electric shock in a way a “normal” outlet can’t. According to the Electrical Fire Safety International website, “GFCIs have saved thousands of lives over the last three decades.”

    To better understand how a GFCI works, let’s break it down a bit.

    What is a Ground Fault?

    Think back to middle school science classes and you’ll remember that electricity always wants to find its way back to the Earth (the ground) as quickly and efficiently as it can.

    Your home is wired so that electricity can find its way back to the ground along an intended, safely wired circuit. A ground fault occurs when, for whatever reason (accidental or intentional), that circuit is broken and the electricity leaves its intended path.

    When electricity leaves its intended path, it will use anything — water, metal, or a human body — to get itself to the ground as quickly and efficiently as it can. This can result in electric shock or even electrocution.

    How a GFCI Works

    A GFCI recognizes when electricity has left its intended path (circuit). In a fraction of a second, the GFCI will trip the power to that outlet, preventing an electrical current from flowing through an unintended path (like a human body) to reach the ground. In other words, a properly-installed GFCI can save a life.

    Where Should GFCIs Be Used?

    The National Electric Code published the first GFCI regulations in 1971. Since that time, those regulations have expanded considerably to include GFCI regulations for residential, commercial, and other property types.

    Generally speaking, GFCIs should be used in any location on your property where there’s a water source. Outlets in your kitchen, bathroom, and laundry room should all be GFCI protected. Outdoor outlets (even those under the eve of your home) and any outlet where a power tool is likely to be plugged in should also be protected by a GFCI.

    Your Missouri Electric Cooperatives encourages you to consider hiring a licensed, bonded, and insured electrician if you’d like to install GFCI outlets in your home according to the National Electric Code.

    For more electrical safety recommendations from you Missouri Electric Cooperatives, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram.

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