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SFMO: Marina and Dock Inspections Bring Greater Safety To Tennesseans

Monday, March 09, 2015 | 05:10am

NASHVILLE – Swimmers and boaters can be assured of increased safety at Tennessee’s public marinas and docks thanks to new regulations that took effect Jan. 1.

Approved last year by the General Assembly and signed into law May 16, 2014 by Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam, Senate Bill No. 1954/House Bill No. 1892 – known as the Noah Dean and Nate Act – makes it mandatory that State Fire Marshal’s Office (SFMO) inspectors examine the electrical wiring and equipment of all Tennessee public marinas and docks.

The law is intended to prevent accidents such as the one that occurred on July 4, 2012 when the lives of Noah Dean Winstead, 10, and Nate Lynam, 11, were tragically cut short after the boys were electrocuted while swimming at the Cherokee Lake marina near Morristown.

“I am so very thankful that Tennessee acted so swiftly in the adoption of legislation in last year’s legislative year to put measures in place to make Tennessee marinas safer,” said Jessica Winstead, mother of Noah Winstead. “It is our hope an impact will be made to prevent a tragedy like our family experienced on July 4, 2012. Senator Steve Southerland  and Representative Tilman Goins were very supportive during this process as was the Tennessee State Fire Marshal’s Office who all saw the need for marinas to be regulated and fall under someone’s jurisdictions.” 

An SFMO electrical inspector began inspecting Tennessee’s more than 300 public marinas and docks earlier this year. Inspections will be conducted every five years thereafter. 

As part of the Noah Dean and Nate Act, all boat dock or marina operators must comply with new equipment requirements preventing possible electrical shocks and electrocution. Additionally, permanent signage warning swimmers of electrical shock hazards must be installed near marinas.

“The families of Noah Dean Winstead and Nate Lynam were instrumental in bringing attention to a crucial safety need that is addressed by this law,” said Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance Commissioner Julie Mix McPeak. “It is our hope that the marina inspection rules will prevent future tragedies from occurring.”

Based on the severity of an infraction, violators of the Noah Dean and Nate Act could face a range of punishments, starting with a Class A misdemeanor and $500 fine and increasing to a Class E felony and a possible fine of $50,000. Inspectors will have the authority to close any boat dock or marina found to be in violation until the infractions are corrected. 

“The State Fire Marshal’s Office is committed to creating a safer environment for Tennesseans both on land and on water,” said Gary West, deputy commissioner for the Fire Prevention Division. “The Noah Dean and Nate Act helps us with our mission of protecting lives and property.”  

Commissioner McPeak and Deputy Commissioner West credited Sen. Steve Southerland (R-Morristown) and Rep. Tilman Goins (R-Morristown) in helping ensure the bill’s passage into law by the General Assembly.

“I am very pleased that these inspections are taking place,” said Southerland.  “No parent should have to suffer this kind of tragedy. This law implements safety measures that will save lives and ensure that the waters around boat docks and marinas are safe.”

“The Noah Dean and Nate Act is a big step forward for safety in and around Tennessee's lakes and waterways,” said Goins.  “Our citizens, as well as tourists who come to Tennessee to enjoy the recreation these lakes offer, need to know that their safety is our utmost priority.”

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