Bipartisan legislation has been introduced in the House to help save the lives of people who use public swimming pools in North Carolina. House Bill 598 mandates that a special circuit breaker device be installed on any line that provides power to a pool’s pump motor. This device is known as a ground fault circuit interrupter.
A ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) is a fast-acting circuit breaker that constantly monitors electricity flowing in a circuit. It is designed to shut off electric power within as little as 1/40 of a second when it senses a problem. GFCIs are generally installed where electrical circuits may accidentally come into contact with water and are now commonly installed in kitchens, bath and laundry rooms.
The presence of such a simple device would have saved the life of a 17-year-old Enloe High School senior.
Rachel Anna Rosoff was working alone as a lifeguard in northern Wake County when she drowned in a public pool last summer. When the swimming pool’s pump motor failed, a corroded wire prevented circuit breakers from tripping and shutting down — and unbeknownst to Rachel — sending electricity to the pool, electrifying the water. When Rachel entered the pool, she was instantly paralyzed. Unable to help herself, she drowned. She was found much later by fellow lifeguard who arrived for a later shift.
Currently, public swimming pools in North Carolina are not required to install ground‑fault circuit‑interrupter protection on the electrical circuits providing power to the swimming pool pump motor.
According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, swimming pool electrocutions are thankfully rare. Between 2003 and 2014, only 14 such deaths due to electrified pools have been reported.
Shortly after her accident, Rachel Rosoff’s family issued a statement saying, “Rachel’s parents are committed to ensuring that reforms to local and state regulations will require stricter inspections of swimming pool electrical systems, so that tragedies such as these won’t occur again.”
If passed, House Bill 598 will mandate these protections for all public swimming pools in the state.