What is Electric Shock Drowning and How Can You Prevent It?

What is Electric Shock Drowning and How Can You Prevent It?

While the CDC has no specific stats on electric-shock drownings (ESD) it does track unintentional drownings and attributes about 10 deaths a day to it. About one in five victims are children ages 14 and younger. Being aware of the danger of electric shock drowning, along with adding extra dock safety measures, are the first steps to preventing this tragedy.

What is Electric Shock Drowning?

You have probably heard of rip tides and are aware of the danger they present, but there is another danger right by your dock that many people are not even aware of. Electric shock drowning occurs when electric current, typically AC-current from boats, docks, or lights, leaks into the water at a level that causes paralysis to people in the water. Many of these cases are reported as drownings because when the person becomes paralyzed they actually drown because they can’t swim or help themselves.

Why is it so Dangerous?

While not minimizing the danger of Rip Tides, the increased danger is often predictable and posted by lifeguards at public beaches. ESD is sometimes called the silent killer because you cannot see electricity in the water. Without a dock monitoring system like ShockIQ, there is no way to know that the danger is present or if the water will become energized.

How to Prevent Electric Shock Drowning?

Here are some precautions you can take to prevent ESD:

  • Install a ShockIQ Mobile Device to alert you of the danger.
  • Examine your equipment between inspections and call a certified marine electrician if you see damaged wiring.
  • Install ground-fault protection on all electrical systems used by docks and boats.
  • Swim at least 50 yards away from any electrical source. Never swim around docks and boats powered with electricity.
  • If you are in the water and feel a tingling sensation, swim away from the dock and anything that could be electrified. Go back to where there was no tingle, warn others, and make sure the power is turned off.
  • If you witness an ESD, do not jump in to help them, you will become a casualty as well. Make sure the power is turned off, call for help, and throw a life ring to the person.
  • Spread the word about this danger.

Tragedy on Smith Lake

The Johnson family talked to TODAY to tell others about the tragic loss of their daughter and help raise awareness of electric shock drowning. In April of 2016, the family was spending the weekend at their vacation home in Smith Lake in Alabama. Their 15-year-old daughter, Carmen, dove from the dock into the water. Her dad realized she hadn’t put the ladder into the water and lowered it, not knowing it carried an electric charge from a faulty light switch. One of Carmen’s friends, Reagan, then jumped into the water also. She shrieked about it being cold, then soon uttered a cry for help that didn’t sound like a joke.

Johnson jumped in the water and realized something else was wrong. “I could feel the electrical current and it was so strong I couldn’t swim in it,” he said.

He started to black out when his son, Zach, also jumped into the water. Fortunately, Johnson was able to scream for someone to cut the power to the dock.

His wife, Casey, turned off the electricity, saving Johnson, Reagan, and Zach, but by that time, Carmen had slipped so far under they couldn’t see her. The Johnson family practiced water safety, but they had no idea a dock could carry an electric current and cause a drowning.

Almost Tragedy on Lake Lanier

In April 2019, Lake Lanier residents had no idea that something was wrong with their dock. They were beta testing a ShockIQ system and after returning from a day out on the water, the alarm went off. They checked the water and found over 22 volts of electricity (as little as 3 volts can be fatal). Without the ShockIQ system, they would have been unaware that there was a problem with their dock wiring. The next weekend nieces and nephews were coming to enjoy the lake and things could have turned out differently without the ShockIQ system.

Keep Your Family and Friends Safe

Girl running off end of the dock

While we want to be aware of the danger, no one should have to live in fear while enjoying the water around their docks. Most dock safety solutions can be either extremely expensive, difficult to install, or both. DockIQ has developed a patented dock safety system called ShockIQ mobile to solve both of these issues.
The ShockIQ system is designed to monitor your dock frame and water for stray electricity. It immediately kills the power when an electrical current is detected and activates a siren and warning light – eliminating the threat and saving lives. As a provider of ShockIQ systems, Boat Lift Warehouse is here to ease all of your dock safety concerns. Visit the ShockIQ Mobile page to order or for more information.

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