Electric Shock Drowning – Completely Preventable!

Just this past Labor Day weekend, we lost a young life in Raleigh, North Carolina to Electric Shock Drowning (ESD). A teenage girl drowned after entering the electrified water. Prior to this incident, a 15 years old lost her life in Smith Lake, Alabama to a tragic ESD incident. The teenager’s father had lowered a metal ladder to the water to help her on board without realizing that the ladder was leaking electricity. A nightmare that no parent should live with.

Drowning due to electric shock is not much talked about or mentioned frequently in the news. Nevertheless, it is still a threat, particular, in the fresh water near docks or boats with electric connectivity. The ESD stats available may not be a true indication of the reality since many deaths are simply classified under ‘drowning’.

ESD happens when a human body makes contact with water that is ‘electrified’ due to a faulty electric connection, damaged live power cord, and faulty or no ground fault protection. Human body serves as a conductor and even a small fraction of electricity can paralyze the muscular system, impair breathing and eventually lead to drowning.  A ground fault protection mechanism is meant to help detect electricity leakage and turn the power off.

Every boat comes with an owner’s manual and every dock or marina owner is required to follow certain protocol to keep it safe. But at times, negligence and accidents do happen. What can we, as swimmers, do to protect ourselves? Again the common sense should prevail – DO NOT swim near the boats, marinas or docks, which have electric connections.  If you ever feel a jolt, swim away from the boat or the dock.

Even though statistics undermine the actual numbers, we need to pay attention since ESD is completely preventable. According to the Electric Shock Drowning Prevention Association, since the experts started tracking recently, there have been over 60 incidents of ESD, several near misses and likely hundreds of deaths have gone unreported; a random sampling of shore power cords in the several freshwater marinas in the US displayed 13% of the boats were leaking lethal amount of electric current into the water. Alarming statistics for something that is completely preventable!

– Meghna Sil


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