Friday, June 9, 2017

Electric-shock drowning happens most often around marinas and docks; here are tips on how to avoid it

A sign warns boaters and swimmers at the
marina at Lake Barkley State Resort Park.
By Melissa Patrick
Kentucky Health News

Electric shock in water can't be seen or heard, but it can be deadly.

Electric-shock drowning occurs when electricity from faulty wiring, equipment or damaged cords on a boat or dock seeps into water where people are swimming. The electricity can paralyze muscles, causing drowning, and in some cases is strong enough to electrocute, says a Kentucky State Parks news release.

The Electric Shock Drowning Prevention Association notes that while shock drowning can happen anywhere electricity is provided near water, most deaths occur near marinas and docks. Shock drowning is called a "silent killer" because there are no visible warning signs to indicate when water has electricity.

The association was created by Kevin Ritz, whose son Lucas was electrocuted while swimming near a dock in 1999.

Electric Shock Drowning Prevention Association
The association explains that water may be safe when a swimmer enters the water, but electricity on a dock or boat can trigger an electric fault, causing the swimmer to become paralyzed and drown. And unless a witness is nearby to experience and report the sensation of electric shock in the water, the death is usually judged to be a common drowning.

More than 3,000 people drown each year from non-boating related drownings, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is unclear how many of those drownings are caused by electric shock.

Here are tips to prevent electric-shock drowning:
  • Never swim around marinas, boats or docks that use AC electrical power for any purpose;
  • Make sure all electrical devices on your boat are working properly, have problems repaired immediately. To locate a certified electrical inspector near you, see;
  • Have your boat and dock inspected annually by an electrician with a current American Boat and Yacht Council electrical certification;
  • If you suspect an electric shock drowning is taking place, turn off the power, throw a life ring to the victim and call 911. Do not jump in the water! You could become a victim;
  • Make sure there is a ground fault circuit interrupter at the dock;
  • Know where the power cutoff is and make sure those not in the water also know where it is;
  • Plastic or wooden ladders are preferable to metal or aluminum ones;
  • Turn off the power to your dock when you are swimming;
  • Wear a life jacket.
The ESDPA adds that it's important to share the dangers of electric shock drowning with marina operators and others, because most people have never heard of it.

Tips were gathered from a variety of sources including: the Kentucky State Parks, ESDPA , the U.S. Cost Guard Auxiliary and a University of Alabama news release.

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