OBX VISITOR’S SAFETY GUIDE – Make your Vacation Exciting, but not Shocking!


Woo-hoo! You finally arrive at your vacation destination, tired from the flight or drive, but you are excited to get back to your favorite place – The Outer Banks. You have planned your vacation for almost a year now and you are READY to get out on the beach. You have included everything you might need: your favorite floppy beach hat; bathing suits and bikinis; sunscreen and sunglasses; coolers, beach umbrellas and beach towels; your cell phone, notebook, tablet and earphones; and chargers for all your gadgets. What else could you need? As corny as it might sound, maybe you need a “refresher” in electrical and water safety. In today’s world, we live with and by our gadgets. How many times have you left home without your cell phone or other gadget and turned around and went back to get it less than 5 minutes later? Or, maybe you went back even after you had been driving 30 minutes or more? If you can honestly answer that question, you’ll say “at least once or twice”. Admit it. We all have. Well, for some of us “techies”, maybe more than a few times. With our gadgets come the covers, cords, chargers, plugs, wires and what not. We are “connected” in so many ways with so many gadgets. We struggle at times to find an available receptacle (which is synonymous with the word outlet) to “charge” our gadget, or three. That’s when we will do what we have to do to get the power we desperately need.

What Things Should I Do When I First Arrive at the Vacation Home?

As soon as you get to the vacation home, make a quick safety check. Here are a few things for which to be on the lookout:

  • Check for missing covers on all the switches and receptacles. Do this inside and outside. Outside switches and receptacles are required to be weatherproof (Source: NEC).
  • Look for any loose, exposed or bare wiring, both inside and outside, but don’t touch them.
  • Check to see if the home has tamper-resistant receptacles or if child-proof covers have been installed for all the exposed outlets at toddler level before they are expected to be at the vacation home.
  • Make sure you look for the locations of all the smoke detectors in the home. They should be located in the bedrooms, in hallways, and in the main living areas, AND on every floor. Typically, they have an indicator light that blinks intermittently when they are monitoring the air properly. If the home doesn’t have any smoke detectors, perhaps you should suggest to the owners or the rental management company that they be installed.
  • Look for the GFI outlets, better known as the GFCI (Ground-Fault Circuit-Interrupter) receptacles in the kitchen, bathrooms, garage and carport areas, and outside. These have been around since 1968 (Source: NEC). These are the outlets that have the “Test” and “Reset” buttons on them. They protect pools, hottubs and YOU in locations where you are near water or where there is a risk of you being injured or shocked by errant electricity or faulty equipment.

DOs and DON’Ts


  • Check the vacation home for electrical hazards before you unpack everything.
  • Test the smoke detectors. On all newer homes, they are all required to be interconnected and all of them will sound when only one is tested (Source: NEC). Push and hold the “Test” button for 1 to 2 seconds after the alarm has begun to sound on the detector you are testing and you should hear the others sounding.
  • Test all GFCI receptacles to make sure they trip when you push in the “Test” button and reset when you push in the “Reset” button.
  • Plug in and remove items from outlets by the plug, NOT by the cord wire.
  • Make sure your body is 100% dry and your clothing is 100% dry before plugging or unplugging a cord into or from an outlet. It is always best to have someone who is completely dry to do that for you even if you or your clothes are damp.
  • Use common sense when using anything that has a cord and plug or is electrical by nature.


  • Never overload a circuit. If a breaker trips when you plug in or turn on something, you have probably overloaded a circuit. Remove the device and reset the breaker, then, try another outlet on a different circuit. If it does it again elsewhere, you probably have a defective or unsafe device and have caused a short circuit. Unplug and reset the breaker. It’s best to not use the faulty device and be safe.
  • Never place an extension cord near, over or through a pool or hottub, no matter how new the cord you use may be. Keep cords at least 6 feet from the inside wall of the pool or hottub.
  • Never place a radio or other corded electronic device onto the ledge or filter area of an outdoor hottub or indoor hydromassage tub, or near a shower. Keep cords and electronic devices at least 6 feet away from the inside wall of any hottub, tub or shower.
  • Never stay inside of a pool, hottub, tub or shower when it is lightning. You can be shocked or potentially electrocuted even if the lightning is miles away and did not strike in your immediate vicinity.

Common Sense and Safety First

  • REMEMBER to Dial 911 anywhere on the Outer Banks to get Fire, EMS or Law Enforcement. Always obey Lifeguards and Law Enforcement. They are here to protect you and to make your visit here safe.
  • REMEMBER to report any downed power lines to 911. DO NOT GO NEAR THEM. There is a serious risk of shock, injury, burns or electrocution – even if you don’t physically touch them.
  • REMEMBER to always use common sense when using anything that uses electricity, whether it is corded or not.
  • REMEMBER to put safety first, and fun second. Your life may depend on it. Call the owner or the rental management company if you have any electrical problems.
  • REMEMBER to never leave children or the elderly unattended in hottubs, swimming pools or in the ocean.

Even though this last statement is not truly electrically related, water accidents can happen in the blink of an eye. Statistics show that most ocean drownings occur during periods of low tide (Source: RC), and can occur at periods of above OR below average wave height, and when children or the elderly are not being supervised. Always use the “buddy system” when swimming anywhere, no matter what your age.

“Rip currents” (sometimes incorrectly called undertows) are to blame for about 30% of all drownings nationwide (Source: DP). Approximately 80% of all ocean rescues occur as a result from swimmers being caught up in rip currents (Source: USLA). Always swim parallel to the shore away from the rip current, and then swim diagonally to shore to escape its grip. If you get in trouble while swimming, CALL FOR HELP, do not wave your arms violently, as this will tire you out more quickly.

NEVER let an inexperienced swimmer (of any age) or children swim without a PFD (Personal Floatation Device, better known as a life jacket) or the like.

NEVER swim in the ocean when rip currents exist or when the redNo Swimming” flags are being flown.

NEVER go swimming in a pool or the ocean if you have consumed ANY amount of alcohol. It increases your chance of drowning by 25% (Source: CDC). Don’t drink and dive!

Enjoy your stay here on the Outer Banks – be safe, have fun making new memories, tell your friends about your Outer Banks vacation and return again soon!


[Statistical and Informational Sources: National Electrical Code (NEC), RipCurrents.com (RC), Daily Press (DP), U.S. Lifesaving Association (USLA), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).]