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Boating Safety Lesson: Electric Shock Drownings

Before you begin a summer of fun out on your boat, we thought we’d give a safety lesson on a topic not many boaters are aware of yet. Electric Shock Drowning (ESD) is a deadly problem that not many people know about that is common to freshwater marina and dock areas.

Many families haven’t heard of ESD until it’s unfortunately too late. Take for example the Johnson family who were vacationing with their 15-year-old daughter Carmen in Alabama. Before this vacation, the family had never heard of ESD, now the family advocates for awareness and prevention of ESD.

What is ESD?

ESD happens because of a dock, pool, boat or marina having electricity leaking into the water. When people unknowingly jump or go into the water, the electricity passes through their body, consequently paralyzing them and making staying afloat nearly impossible. Plus the electric current makes it hard to rescue victims without getting shocked yourself.

So when Carmen jumped into the water on her family vacation after sunbathing on the dock, she didn’t realize she’d be unable to swim in the electricity filled water and ultimately drown. The water was filled with an electric current caused by a faulty light switch from the ladder on the family’s dock. They didn’t realize the ESD danger until it was sadly too late.

Unfortunately, Carmen’s case isn’t the only one. The Electric Shock Drowning Prevention Association has been around since 1999, and since their founding, they’ve compiled a list of 77 fatal cases of ESD with stories very similar to the Johnson family's story.

How to Prevent ESD?  

According to the Electric Shock Drowning Prevention Association, their advice for preventing ESD from affecting you or someone you love is to never swim near or around a marina, dock or boatyard. If you do dock your boat at a marina, they also recommend that you talk with the marina owner about the dangers of ESD and how to keep the water safe for everyone.

Also as pointed out in this safety report, ESD is more common in a freshwater environment. This phenomenon is because salt water is highly conductive to the electric current, so the electricity passes through the water rather than whoever may be in the water. Meanwhile, freshwater does the opposite. Freshwater has a low conductivity, so the electricity is looking for a more conductive source to travel through.  When a person jumps in and enters the water, the electricity travels through the body and begins to paralyze the muscles until the person ultimately drowns or someone intervenes.  

Non Electric Boat Docks

If you are concerned about electric powered docks and the risk they pose, there are non-electric boat dock lift options available. This non electric boat dock offers the same convenience as their electric counterparts. However, with these boat docks you can have that added peace of mind that there will be no electric current coming into the water from the docks. Plus, non-electric boat docks are completely portable. So you can take them these docking options anywhere you wish to take your boat.   

Ultimately, being educated on this topic is the most important thing. Because electric docks haven’t been around very long, not all the safety hazards about them are known.

If you have questions on if your dock is safe for freshwater or more questions about ESD, please ask our team of specialists.

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