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Pool Electrocution Highlights Wiring Safety Issues

MIAMI (CBSMiami) -- The electrocution of a 7-year old boy in the family's North Miami swimming pool - apparently due to faulty wiring to the pool's light - has served as a lightning rod drawing attention to pool safety.

Master electrician Walter Sanders was at a Coral Gables home Friday where he immediately noticed a potentially, very dangerous issue with the pool's underwater light.

"As you can see, there's water in the light," Sanders said, pointing. "You can see the water line inside of that light fixture."

There can be no overstating the obvious, Sanders said.

"Water and electricity don't mix," without possibly deadly consequences.

Swimming pools are to South Florida as canals are to Venice. They're everywhere. And most pools built before 1984 have a full 120 volts of electricity going to their lights.

"I would suggest those people would want to look into hiring an electrician to change that system over to a twelve volt system," Sanders said.

A 12-volt power system for pool lighting uses a transformer to "step down" a potentially deadly 120 volts to just twelve.

"Make sure you don't have 120 volts introduced into your water, in case a glass breaks or a leakage, and obviously you want to make sure your system is well grounded," Sanders said.

A well-grounded system ensures that if something goes wrong, the juice flows to the ground and not to those in the pool.

"Have your electrician make sure that the wiring from the switch, to the transformer, to the light has a continuous ground," Sanders said. "And with pool lights it has to be an independent grounding system," separate from the rest of the home's electrical system.

Landscape lighting, too, should be powered by a grounded, low voltage system to prevent someone from being electrocuted on a rain-soaked lawn.

Homeowners should look for possible problems with their wiring – whether it's driveway lights or pool lights or interior wiring; light fixtures that show signs of rust or corrosion, water inside the pool light fixture, lights that flicker or any odd sounds - buzzing or popping - from switches or fixtures.

"Make sure you get it fixed, so everybody's safe," Sanders said.

Miriam Rossi of Miami-Dade County's building and zoning department cautioned that homeowners should not inspect or repair their electrical systems themselves.

"This is not something you want to do yourself," Rossi said. "It needs to be done by a qualified, licensed electrician."

Click here for more information on swimming pool and other wiring safety from the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

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