In early summer, a segment on the Today Show highlighted Electric Shock Drowning. They told the story of a father and his dog swimming in the water near a dock in obvious distress. The son saw their struggling and jumped in the water to help and was a victim of Electric Shock Drowning.
So, what is ESD? When electricity is present in water and someone enters, the electrical current can paralyze and/or affect the rhythm of the heart and the person could drown. Unfortunately, unless the drowning was observed, there are no physiological markers that can identify the ESD over simple drowning.
So, where does the electricity come from? Primarily it is faulty wiring, be it improperly wired, loose or frayed wires, faulty or improper ground, or a lack of proper ground fault interrupters. The biggest culprits seem to be boat lifts in contact with the water.
I have designed, supervised, and maintained swimming pools, as well as trained pool operators for more than forty-five years. There is a mandatory pool electrical inspection, by a certified electrical inspector at least every three years. Ladders, handrails, diving boards, and starting blocks must be grounded by statute.
However, dependent on the county in which your dock is located, electrical guidelines and inspec-tions vary. If your dock is say, more than twenty years old, so may be your last electrical inspection.
How can we avoid ESD? Hire a certified electrician to inspect your dock and correct any problems found. Some members of the SML Marine Fire and Rescue Department have been surveying docks for current in the water. They use a tool called “Shock Alert.” It is placed in the water and if electricity is present lights flash and buzzers sound.
At their November meeting the SMLA Water Safety Council presented the Scruggs Dive Team with a “Shock Alert” tool to test the waters they dive into before entering.
Please consider contacting a certified electrician and have your dock inspected for safety’s sake.
Patrick Massa – Chair, SMLA Water Safety Council