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The City of Portland, Oregon

Fire & Rescue

Always Ready, Always There

Phone: 503-823-3700

Fax: 503-823-3710

55 SW Ash Street, Portland, OR 97204

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PF&R Dive Team Practices Recognizing Electrical Hazards around Marinas & Floating Homes



Kevin Ritz explains to the PF&R Dive Team factors that can contribute to an electrical marine environment.

The Portland Fire and Rescue (PF&R) Dive Team held a dive drill on Tuesday, July 13, 2010 at Station 17 on Hayden Island.  During the drill, Kevin Ritz, American Boat and Yacht Council Pacific Northwest Representative, provided detailed and life-saving information on potential electrical hazards around marinas and floating homes.

Kevin Ritz shows divers how electricity can travel through conductors such as metals, water, and people.

The reason that Kevin Ritz disseminates information on the dangers of swimming in marinas is near and dear to his heart.  In the summer 1999, Ritz’s eight-year-old son Lucas was swimming with friends and his older brother by a marina dock on the Willamette River when he was tragically electrocuted. Read Lucas’s story by clicking here

Kevin Ritz show divers how to measure AC and DC current using a handheld multimeter tool.

Ritz conducts seminars for public safety personnel and local, national, and international marine investigators in hopes to educate others on the danger of swimming in and around marinas and floating homes. During his presentation to PF&R Dive Team members, Ritz explained the many factors that can contribute to an electrical marine environment responsible for fatalities such as his son’s, but he focused on alternating- current (AC) electricity in the water. AC electricity in the water can stem from a wiring problem on a powerboat that introduces voltage into the direct-current (DC) system, a low-level ground fault leakage in the marina AC shore power system, or other simple electrical malfunctions, such as deteriorating insulation.

Ritz described that if AC electricity is unable to reach ground, it can create a deadly field in the water. A swimmer passing through this field is "seen" by the electrical current as a low-resistance path to the ground. The result of electric current passing through the body is electrocution.

It’s of utmost importance for members of the Portland Dive Team to be educated on the potential dangers of combining electricity and water so they are able to make informed decisions when performing dive rescues.  PF&R thanks Kevin Ritz for his dedication to helping and educating others on this important safety issue.


  Portland Fire & Rescue We Respond: Always Ready, Always There

  July 16, 2010


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