Take Precautions Around Boat Docks And Marinas

Group of friends and one person jumping into water

As you head out to the lake this summer, there is a silent killer that you must be aware of in order to keep your family safe.

Electric Shock Drowning- drowning that happens as a result of an electric shock- has increased as boats and docks have become more high-tech, including electric appliances and devices.

When a boat or dock’s electrical system and items are not installed or maintained correctly, they can actually “leak” electricity into the water around them. These leaks can be caused by frayed wires, poorly wired systems, or even a damaged or outdated grounding system.

One 12-year-old girl was electrocuted while attempting to plug a pool-side stereo into an outlet that was not grounded while she had wet hands. In another case, two siblings aged 13 and 8 were swimming near a private dock in the Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri when they were electrocuted in the water. They died in seconds. These are just two of the dozen or more documented cases of ESD deaths each year. It is believed that many more occur, but are misidentified as drowning deaths.

ESD happens when a swimmer (or a person who is wet) comes into contact with an electrical current. Many times it causes paralysis of the muscles for only a moment, but long enough to prevent the person from swimming and staying above water. It only takes a very small amount of leaking electricity to electrocute a person.

As little as 1/3 the amount of electricity needed to light a 40-wall light bulb can kill someone in seconds. To stay safe in the water this summer, take note of these important tips and get more information HERE:

  • Don’t swim in or near freshwater marinas, docks or boatyards energized with 120-volt AC power.

  • If you are a boat owner, have your boat inspected by an electrician with current ABYC (American Boat and Yacht Council) Electrical Certification or by an ABYC Certified Technician.

  • If you keep your boat at a marina, talk to the marina owners or operators about the danger of electric shock drowning. Ask if GFCI’s are installed on all shore power pedestals and on all marina wiring circuits. Ask if their marina is regularly inspected by qualified electricians who are familiar with National Fire Protection Association Codes: NFPA 303 and NFPA 70. Learn more HERE.

  • Tell others about the danger of Electric Shock Drowning. Make sure your children understand the importance of not swimming anywhere there could be electricity. Don’t let them roughhouse on docks, and tell them what to do if they feel a tingling or shock in the water (see below).

  • If someone is being electrocuted in the water, DO NOT jump in. Remember to “reach, throw, row, but DON’T GO.”

If you’re in the water and feel tingling or a shock

  • Do NOT swim toward the dock

  • Shout out and let people know what’s happening

  • Try to stay upright and back out of the area the way you came

  • Warn other swimmers of the danger

  • Alert the dock or marina owner and tell them to shut the power off

  • Go to the hospital to make sure there are no lingering effects

For more safety topics, visit our attorney videos HERE. If you or someone you love is injured due to the negligence of another person, call us for a free consultation 24/7 at (217) 394-5885.