SOURCE: Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI)

Julie Chavanne

June 30, 2014 10:00 ET

ESFI Warns About the Dangers of Electric Shock Drowning This Fourth of July

Resources Help Educate Public About This Silent Killer

ARLINGTON, VA--(Marketwired - June 30, 2014) - The Fourth of July holiday is not only one of the most popular boating days of the season, but it is also the deadliest. According to the U.S. Coast Guard, the Fourth of July, combined with Memorial Day and Labor Day, typically account for more than one third of all boating-related accidents and fatalities.

One of the hazards that threaten this otherwise celebratory occasion is Electric Shock Drowning (ESD), which the American Boat & Yacht Council defines as the result of the passage of a typically low level alternating current through the body with sufficient force to cause skeletal muscular paralysis, rendering the victim unable to prevent him/herself from drowning. According to the Electric Shock Drowning Prevention Association, ESD occurs in fresh water and the majority of ESD deaths have occurred near public and private marinas and docks.

ESFI is reminding boat operators and swimmers to be especially careful this Fourth of July, which has historically been a holiday with occurrences of ESD. In fact, four children and one young adult were killed in three separate ESD incidents at docks on freshwater lakes over the Fourth of July holiday in 2012.

"Although there are reported incidents every year, there is a lack of awareness about the dangers of Electric Shock Drowning," said ESFI President Brett Brenner. "Our objective is to educate boat operators and marina owners about the precautions they can take to prevent these incidents and other electrical injuries while out on the water."

Reduce the risk of Electric Shock Drowning and common boat-related electrical hazards with these handy tips from ESFI:

  • Don't allow yourself or anyone else to swim near docks. Avoid entering the water when launching or loading your boat.
  • If you feel a tingle while swimming, the water may be electrified. Get out as soon as possible avoiding the use of metal objects such as ladders.
  • Have your boat's electrical system inspected and upgraded by a certified marine electrician regularly.
  • Have Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCIs) installed on your boat and test them once a month.
  • Consider having Equipment Leakage Circuit Interrupters (ELCIs) installed to protect nearby swimmers from potential electricity leakage into water surrounding your boat.
  • Only use shore or marine power cords, plugs, receptacles, and extension cords that have been tested by Underwriters Laboratories (UL), Canadian Standards Association (CSA) or Intertek (ETL).
  • Never use cords that are frayed or damaged or that have had the prongs removed or altered.
  • Never stand or swim in water when turning off electrical devices or switches.
  • Always maintain a distance of at least 10 feet between your boat and nearby power lines.
  • If you suspect that someone is swimming in electrified water, call for help and resist the urge to enter the water. Many rescuers have died trying to help ESD victims.

For ESFI's complete collection of Boating and Marina Safety resources, visit

The Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI) is dedicated exclusively to promoting electrical safety. ESFI proudly sponsors National Electrical Safety Month each May, and engages in public education campaigns throughout the year to prevent electrical fires, injuries, and fatalities in the home and the workplace. For more information, visit

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  • Julie Chavanne