Since the early 2000s, the media has reported on a number of deaths from electric shock drowning (ESD). What is ESD? If you haven't heard about it before, you're not alone. Unfortunately, ESD is not well known. ESD occurs when faulty wiring sends an electrical current into the water. The current then passes through the body and causes paralysis, and ultimately results in drowning. ESD can occur in swimming pools, hot tubs, spas, marinas, lakes and ponds.
Some would argue the number of electric shock deaths reported are not that high, yet ESD severely injuries and kills many people a year. Why the discrepancy? Due to how difficult its detection is, drownings caused by ESD are not properly reported or investigated because autopsies won’t reveal any evidence of ESD. In most cases, first responders have to rely on the accounts of eyewitnesses who hear cries for help or they learn from other swimmers that they felt a tingling sensation in the water. Most often, the cases end up being reported as drownings, and the real cause of death — the electricity in the water — remains completely undetected.
Sounds scary? It is. And now with summer in full swing, NFPA and Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI) are joining forces to remind people about the potential electrical hazards that exist in swimming pools, hot tubs and spas, on board boats and in the waters surrounding boats, marinas and launch ramps. The good news is, these deaths are preventable if we take the time to understand the risks and obey the warning signs.
Our new video (above) is one way we’re helping to educate people so we can all safely enjoy summer water activities.The video is meant to be shared and we invite you to give it to family members, friends and neighbors. After watching it, take the opportunity to start a discussion with those you love about the ways you can reduce your risk of ESD.
NFPA and ESFI have a number of really great resources, too, for swimmers, boat and pool owners, as well as for marina operators including tip sheets, checklists, brochures and more that you can download and use (and share!) immediately. You can find everything at www.nfpa.org/watersafety and on ESFI’s website.
Starting today, let's work together on eliminating injuries and drownings from electric shock so all of us can stay safe this summer and throughout the year.