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AC / Electrical wiring tips / Live Sound tips GFI’s and electrical wiring around stages

How far do we go in the interest of safety? “In reading your WFTD archives I came across the Ground Fault Interrupt entry. I was just wondering why more clubs and stages don’t employ this technology in their wiring? I’ve seen a lot of musicians get shocked with their gear over the years, including one who was seriously injured.” GFI (Ground Fault Interrupt) breakers or the electrical outlets that have them built in are somewhat expensive. Electrical code regulations often require that they be used around water (i.e. your kitchen or bathroom sink). You could argue that they should be used everywhere, but when people are putting buildings together and incurring a lot of expenses it is generally believed that they don’t make enough of a difference to offset the cost. While this may sound kind of petty it probably isn’t too far off base. Equipment connected to a standard outlet that is grounded properly is pretty safe. Most musicians encounter shocks and things with a PA system because the system itself isn’t wired properly, not because the venue’s electrical system isn’t up to code. A GFI isn’t going to help that anyway.There are, however, plenty of examples of questionable electrical wiring in clubs and stage areas. It’s a good idea to check things very carefully the first time you play somewhere. If you don’t know what to do consider enlisting the help of someone that does. Unless you possess the nine lives of a feline you can’t be too careful. Insurance never does a dead person any good. Fortunately in the United States someone would have to go astray of very rigorous codes to build an electrical system that isn’t basically safe. The real danger is in some other countries where electrical codes (if they exist) can be quite relaxed compared to our own. A friend of mine did a gig at a hotel in Brazil a few years ago where he stumbled upon a very interesting fuse box scheme outside of his hotel room (see photo of fuse box, it’s self explanatory). If you travel a lot with your equipment it’s a very good idea to have one of the better electrical regulation and distribution systems that are made by companies like Juice Goose, Furman, Equi=Tech, or ETA (there are a number of other good brands) to minimize the chances of getting your gear (or you) fried with unpredictable line voltages and other anomalies.

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