Since the early 2000s, the media has reported on deaths from electric shock drowning (ESD), yet many people say they have never heard about this troubling trend. ESD can occur in swimming pools, hot tubs, spas, marinas, lakes and ponds, and it happens when faulty wiring sends an electrical current into the water. The current then passes through the body and causes paralysis. When this happens, a person can no longer swim and ultimately drowns.
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? ESD, unfortunately, is not easy to detect in an autopsy, which leads to ESD cases not being properly reported or investigated. In most cases, first responders have to rely on the accounts of eyewitnesses who hear cries for help and/or 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 — electricity in the water — remains completely undetected.
Sounds scary? It is. All this month NFPA is raising awareness of electrical hazards in and around our homes during National Electrical Safety Month. As we head into Memorial Day weekend and the start of summer, we encourage people to learn more about the potential risks 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 dangers and obey the warning signs.
Our new video (below) is one way we’re helping 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 has 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, use (and share!) immediately. You can find everything at www.nfpa.org/watersafety. For more great insight on this topic, check out NFPA's electrical technical lead, Derek Vigstol's latest blog.
As the summer months beckon us to the beauty of watering holes and backyard pools, let’s work together to help raise more awareness of this deadly problem so that all of us can stay safe this summer and throughout the year.