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Tragic reminder to test for RV electrical safety

Area residents, saddened by a young boy's death, are wiser now about electrical hazards that improper grounding can pose for campers and RVs. Owners should act on the safety advice of experts.

Published: Friday, July 25, 2014 1:15 a.m. CDT • Updated: Monday, Aug. 18, 2014 7:33 a.m. CDT

News of the June 30 death of a 3-year-old Amboy boy, who was accidentally electrocuted as he exited the family camper, saddened the Sauk Valley community.

After an investigation by the Lee County Sheriff's Department, the exact cause was determined.

According to Sheriff John Varga, an electrician found that the camper was "poorly grounded."

Lack of proper electrical grounding can lead to a condition known as "hot skin," where the shell, or "skin," of the camper or recreational vehicle becomes electrified.

Then, when people or pets touch it, they can get shocked – anything from a mild jolt to a deadly dose of electrical current.

Sheriff Varga told an SVM reporter that the accident was "extremely tragic," adding, "We're not putting fault on anybody."

Indeed, the problem of improper grounding affects about one in five recreational vehicles, according to a survey of 1,200 owners conducted in 2010 by RVTravel.com.

Adults wearing shoes who are standing on dry ground may not feel the electrical tingle. But children and pets, who have lower body resistance, are at greater risk. For anyone standing in water, the danger increases.

An electrical engineer named Mike Sokol founded a website, NoShockZone.org, dedicated to educating RV owners about electrical safety issues.

Sokol calls on owners to buy basic noncontact voltage testers – "They're 10 to 20 bucks" at any hardware store – and use them every time they plug in their RVs.

He also recommends that professionals install electrical outlets for RVs.

Sadder but wiser, owners of campers and RVs should act on Sokol's advice.

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