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Information on Electric Shock Drowning (ESD)

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Most boaters are probably not aware of ESD (Electric Shock Drowning). But if you are a freshwater boater and use a marina for slippage, you should not only be aware of ESD, but frequently checking to see if there is a potential problem in the waters around you.

Electric shock drowning occurs in FRESH water when a relatively low level AC current passes through a body, causing skeletal muscular paralysis. This results in the inability of the victim to help him/herself. The ultimate result is drowning.

While ESD can happen to anyone, the typical victim is a child swimming around a Freshwater Marina or dock. The cause is stray current flowing from a power source into the water from a boat or a dock.

Here is the problem. This is a silent killer. There are no obvious warning signs when it occurs, and according to the Electric Shock Drowning Organization, the current flow may not always be present. It can sometimes manifest itself when a change in the boat's or marina's power requirements change. (For example, a light switch on a boat is turned on, increasing current draw to the vessel.)

According to the Electric Shock Drowning Organization, approximately 13% of the Fresh Waster Marinas in the US have Electric Shock potential at any given time.

Here are the recommendations from the Electric Shock Drowning Organization to prevent ESD:

  1. Never swim around Marinas, Docks or boatyards
  2. Educate others about ESD and the hazards of swimming in problem areas.
  3. Have your boat inspected by an ABYC Electrician
  4. Talk to your and other marinas about ESD and ask them if they have taken protective prevention steps.

ESD is preventable. Be alert and be aware of the potential for ESD whenever you are boating in fresh water.

have a safe day and good boating!

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