Help Prevent Electric Shock Drowning, Swimming Tragedies

Recent fatalities show need for greater awareness

Springfield, IL, June 29, 2017 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) --

With the approach of the July 4 holiday weekend, Safe Electricity is urging water recreation enthusiasts to be aware of the potential for electric shock drowning (ESD). Such swimming fatalities this season have happened in multiple states, and nationally each year for the last several years, including over Independence Day holiday weekends.  Safe Electricity wants swimmers and others to understand how ESD happens and how to avoid tragedy.

        “Electric current can “leak” into fresh water lakes, rivers, and elsewhere where docks or boats have faulty wiring or lack safety equipment,” explains Molly Hall, Executive Director of the Energy Education Council. “The same potential can exist with pools that have electrical equipment, as well as hot tubs. It is impossible to tell by sight if water carries electrical current. And because of moving water, the problem can be intermittent, present only part of the time.”

         “If a swimmer feels anything akin to electric current, they must swim away from the dock or metal ladders - anything that could be energized.”

        Outdated or worn wiring, along with a lack of proper safety equipment and routine maintenance on docks and boats can cause electricity to be present in surrounding water. According to the Electric Shock Drowning Prevention Association, just 1/50 the wattage of a 60 watt light bulb, between 10 and 15 milliamps, can cause drowning. The electricity can cause muscles to “lock” and render swimmers unable to swim to safety. Stronger levels can cause the heart to stop.

        Safe Electricity advises never swim in a marina or around boats plugged into shore power, and avoid swimming near docks with electrical equipment. Follow these tips:

  • If you are in the water and feel electric current, such as tingling on the skin or pulsing water, shout to let others know and stay upright with your legs tucked while swimming away from anything that could be energized. 
  • Never swim toward the boat or dock ladders to exit the water. Swim away from all metal ladders. Head to shore if you can.
  • If you are on shore and see someone who you suspect is getting shocked, do not immediately jump in to save them or you could become a victim too.  Throw them a float, turn off the shore power connection at the meter base, and/or unplug shore power cords. Eliminate the source of electricity, then call for help.

        Safe Electricity, along with the American Boat and Yacht Council (ABYC) and International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers/National Electrical Contractors Association, recommends taking these steps in order to enhance water recreation safety and accident prevention:

  • All electrical installations should be performed by a professional electrical contractor familiar with marine codes and standards and inspected at least once a year.
  • Docks should have ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) breakers on the circuits feeding electricity to the dock.
  • Make your neighbors aware of the need for safety inspections and maintenance. Marinas should comply with NFPA and NEC codes.

Here are a few additional tips to keep in mind for your boat’s electrical system, particularly those with Alternating Current systems:

  • Regardless of the size of boat, maintenance of the electrical system should be done by a professional familiar with marine electrical codes.
  • Have your boat’s electrical system checked at least once a year. Boats should also be checked when something is added to or removed from their systems.

        “The cost of boat and dock, as well as pool maintenance is definitely worth it when it comes to saving lives,” adds Hall. Take time to inspect all of the electrical systems on or near the water.”

        For more electrical safety information, visit

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