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It has happened again. A day enjoying an Alabama lake has ended in tragedy. Two women are dead. Their deaths blamed on Electric Shock Drowning, or ESD.
The bodies of 2 lawyers were found in Lake Tuscaloosa this spring, almost exactly 1 year after a 15-year-old girl died the same way on Smith Lake north of Birmingham. Deaths like these can almost always be prevented by calling on the professional electricians at Dixie Electric, Plumbing & Air. Electrical service to boat docks is included in our whole-house Safe and Sound safety inspections.
If you have electrical service on a dock, houseboat, or anything else on the water, there is risk. If the wiring, switches, and outlets have not been inspected by a professional electrician in the last 6 months, you and your family members could be in danger. Dixie urges you to turn off the circuit breaker until an inspection is complete. It’s the best way to keep your family and friends safe while enjoying activities on our many lakes and rivers.
The simplest of things can cause a deadly situation. In the case of the 15-year-old who died, water was able to get inside an electrical box causing a short circuit on the dock. The water became electrified when a metal ladder was hung off the dock into the lake.
It’s just one example of why professional inspections are so important. Dixie’s electricians are trained to find and fix those sorts of risk factors before a deadly accident happens. Here are some ways to limit the risk.
- Check wiring often: This should be done twice a year. Even a routine storm can damage electrical components and create a dangerous situation.
- Proper safety devices: Every circuit on or near the water should have a ground fault interrupt (GFI) breaker.
- Know what to do: Everyone present should know where the power shutoff is and how to cut electricity to the dock or boat.
- Ladders: Use plastic or wooden ladders on a dock instead of metal (especially aluminum)
Electric shock drowning is often called a silent killer because there are no warning signs when water is energized. In fact, it may not even happen until after the victim is in the water. In most cases the current paralyzes a swimmer who then drowns. Even after an autopsy, many deaths are called a drowning because there are no signs of electrocution. According to the Atlanta-Based Centers for Disease Control about 3,000 people drown every year. There’s no way of knowing how many are cases of ESD.
While the numbers may not be exact, the danger is widespread. A non-profit group is dedicated to preventing deaths and injuries from ESD. The Electric Shock Drowning Prevention Association (ESDPA) has a website dedicated to education and prevention.
The group strongly discourages swimming wherever electricity is present. In fact, the ESDPA would like to see swimming prohibited around boats, docks, and marinas using electricity. If you are going to go into the water, follow these safety tips:
- Swim at least 50 yards from any electrical source
- Owners should post signs warning of any potential danger
- If you feel tingling swim away do not go towards the dock or boat
- Warn others in the area
- At the first sign get out of water if you are able to
- Shut off power
For witnesses and bystanders:
- Throw the victim a life ring
- Use a non-conductive pole to move the person away
- Do NOT pull victim toward dock
- Don’t jump in
- Call 9-1-1
Since Dixie added plumbing services in 2012, we like to say electricity and water do mix, but only because we have highly trained professionals who can work on your electrical and plumbing systems. In the real world, electricity near water can be a deadly combination. Too often, too many people are unaware of the danger. Make sure you share this warning with your friends and neighbors. You may be saving a life.
One final warning from your friends at Dixie Electric, Plumbing & Air. The American Red Cross warns ESD can also occur around pools, hot tubs and spas. Make sure you tell our electrician about those items so we can also inspect them for any safety hazards.
What is ESD?
So, the victim isn’t electrocuted?
Who is the typical victim?
Why is it so dangerous?
How much electricity causes injury or death?
How often does it happen?