Preventing electric shock in water

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21536205 – man piloting motorboat on lake in georgian bay, ontario, canada.
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The heat is here to stay, which means many of us will be hitting the pools and lakes for some fun in the sun. Make sure your swimming and boating area is safe from electrical hazards. The American Public Power Association has valuable information about what is known as electric shock drowning and how to avoid it.

shock drowning
Courtesy of APPA

Docks and boats carry sources of electricity. Faulty wiring or the use of damaged electrical cords and other devices can cause the surrounding water to become energized. NEVER swim near a marina or near a boat while it’s running.

  • There is no visible warning of electrified water.
  • Electric current in the water causes the paralysis of muscles, which results in drowning.
  • The 2017 National Electrical Code now requires marinas and boatyards to have ground-fault protection to help prevent water electrification. Check to see if your marina, and the boats in the marina, have proper GFCI protection.
  • As little as 10 milliamps, 1/50th the amount used by a 60-watt light bulb, can cause paralysis and drowning.

What to do if you see electric shock drowning taking place:

  • Turn power off
  • Throw a life ring
  • Call 911
  • NEVER enter the water – you could become a victim, too

The 2017 National Electrical Code requires marinas and boat docks to post electric shock warning signs where electricity is used near water.

Jason Kuiper

About Jason Kuiper

Jason Kuiper joined OPPD as a communications specialist in 2015. He formerly worked as a staff writer and reporter at the Omaha World-Herald.

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