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Over the past few years, some of us tragically have become more familiar with electric shock drowning (ESD) due to a number of incidents where swimmers were killed near boats and docks. The cause of these deaths was small amounts of 120-volt AC (alternating current) leakage in fresh water that electrocuted or incapacitated the unknowing victims.

The best precautions are to have your boat and dock tested annually to see if they are leaking electricity, and have a professional fix them if they are. Or, if you keep your boat in a marina, ask the operators if they are aware of ESD and if they follow the proper electric codes and safety guidelines.

Of course, there are going to be times when you are away from your own boat or dock and cannot be 100 percent certain that dangerous current is not leaking into the water around you. Here are some quick tips to remember that can help you and your kids remain safe from ESD while still enjoying the lifestyle you enjoy.

    The best way to avoid ESD is never to swim in a marina and only to swim off a private dock if the electricity has been turned off.
    Make sure children understand the importance of not swimming near electricity. Do not allow roughhousing on docks.
    Never swim or dive around your boat to work on fittings or equipment when it is plugged in to shore power.
    If you feel tingling or shocks while swimming in the water, do not swim toward the dock. Back out of the area and head to shore 100 yards or more away from the dock.
    When rescuing an ESD victim, do not enter the water. Turn off the shore power connection at the meter or unplug the shore power cords, then reach, throw or row to the person.
    Spread the word about ESD. Talk to your neighbors with docks and work together with them to make the waterfront safe.

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2 Responses to Electric Shock Drowning

  1. Michael Osgood says:

    Is there a method to test the water for ESD before a swim?

  2. craig says:

    can you suggest a test for electric currents. I have a volt meter but am not sure where to attach the clips and how to set the range etc.

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