What You Need To Know About Electric Shock Drowning

    Published: 06-16-2009
    Views: 15,339
    Scott Croft with BoatUS discusses the dangers of electric shock drowning (ESD) and what to do if you spot a victim of ESD.

    Scott Croft: Marinas are a great place to keep a boat, but heavy boating traffic makes them an unsafe place to swim. If these docks have electrical service, there could be another swimming risk hidden from plain sight.

    I am Scott Croft with Boat Owners Association of the United States here to discuss Electric Shock Drowning or ESD. ESD occurs when minute amounts of alternating current find its way into fresh water, usually from a faulty dock or boat wiring.

    When this electricity passes through a swimmer, it can disable or even kill them, even if they arent touching anything. Any dock with electrical service could be a source of dangerous electricity and it is fresh water that allows ESD to happen. ESD isnt as great a risk in saltwater as the stray electrical current takes the path of least resistance around the swimmer.

    However, brackish waters, such as in bays or other estuaries, could be in the danger zone, especially after a heavy rain. So you may not know when the potential exists for Electric Shock Drowning.

    ESD victims appear distressed, feel numbness, tingling or pain, and unlike a drowning victim may not be able to move their arms or legs. If they are not wearing a life jacket, they may roll face down in the water.

    If you notice a potential ESD victim, your first instinct may be to jump in the water, but this could make the situation much worst. Entering water with stray electricity puts you in mortal danger. The safest response to a potential ESD victim is to shut off power, starting with the power pedestals, and if possible the main dock breaker, and call 911. Throw flotation and try to get the victim further away from the dock. Pulling them closer could put you or the victim in more danger. Dont use a metal boat pole. If you can retrieve the victim, begin CPR until first responders arrive. An Automated External Defibrillator or AED may be able to return an ESD victims heart rate to normal. Knowing what ESD looks like and how to respond could save someones life. So share these risks and tips with your friends, family and fellow boaters.