What If Wednesday: What Boat Owners Need to Know About Preventing Electric Shock Drowning

Hand of drowning manMedia coverage of several electric shock drowning (ESD) over the past few years has brought more attention to the danger that is present in freshwater when electricity from the docks and boats present leaks into the water. When this occurs, swimmers can be electrocuted and killed instantly, or incapacitated, making them incapable of swimming to safety and subsequently drowning.

So what if you suspect that the water around your dock or boat is dangerously electrified? Unfortunately, there is no visible warning or way to tell if water surrounding a boat, marina, or dock is energized or may become so with fatal levels of electricity. Most often, electricity enters the water when an electrical fault occurs aboard a boat. If you are a boat owner, the best precaution is to have your boat and dock tested annually to make sure they are not leaking electricity, and to have a professional fix them if they are. If you keep your boat in a marina, ask the operators of the facility if they are aware of ESD and if they follow proper electrical codes and safety guidelines.

As a boat owner, in addition to having adequate insurance, you need to know how to reduce the risks of ESD for your friends, family, and any guests you may have on your dock or boat. Here are some safety tips to help you:

  • Do not swim in a marina and only 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 swim or dive around your boat to work on it when it is plugged in to shore power.
  • If you feel tingling or shocks while swimming, do not swim toward your dock or boat. Back out of the area and head to shore 100 yards or more away from the dock.
  • If someone must go into the water to retrieve something lost overboard shut off the electricity to the dock before they enter it.

If you encounter an ESD victim, do not enter the water yourself. Power off the shore electricity at the meter or unplug the shore power cords, then reach, throw, or row to the person.

As a responsible boat owner, in addition to taking other proper water and boat safety precautions, making sure that any visitors to your boat and dock are aware of the above precautions to prevent ESD is critical. By helping to educate others about the potential risks and how to increase waterfront safety you can help to prevent another potentially deadly and completely preventable tragedy.

For more information about ESD prevention, visit the Electro Shock Drowning Prevention Association.

Let’s Talk!

Jennifer Pummell, Customer Service, Kemner-Iott Agency

Jennifer Pummell, Customer Service, Kemner-Iott Agency

Have you recently purchased a boat or are you thinking of purchasing one? Give Kemner-Iott a call for your boating/watercraft needs. With locations throughout lower Michigan, we are here to serve you.

Adrian: 517.265.7000
Ann Arbor: 734.971.1000
Cassopolis: 269.445.2425

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