NFPA educates swimmers, boaters on dangers of electric shock drowning

ROANOKE, Va. (WFXR) — With Independence Day just around the corner, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) is reminding people about potential electrical hazards that pose a threat to swimmers in various bodies of water.

Every year swimmers are injured or killed due to electric shock drowning (ESD). ESD occurs when improperly installed or maintained electrical systems within marinas or boat electrical systems release electrical currents throughout the water. These currents can pass through a person’s body, causing a state of paralysis that can ultimately cause serious injury or death.

“Continued education about the presence of electrical hazards in water can help reduce the risk of electric shock drowning from happening in pools and waterways,” said Lorraine Carli, NFPA’s vice president of Outreach & Advocacy.

In addition to swimming pools, potential electric hazards exist in hot tubs, onboard boats, on docks and piers, and in the water surrounding boats, marinas, and boat launch ramps.

“Have a qualified electrician inspect your boat, swimming pool equipment, hot tub, and spa before engaging in any water activities, and make sure they are regularly maintained to ensure all life-saving measures and protection systems are functioning properly,” Carli said.

Safety measures for swimmers, pool, and boat owners


  • Never swim near a marina, dock, or boatyard.
  • While in a pool or hot tub look out for underwater lights that are not working properly or flicker.
  • If you feel a tingling sensation while in a pool, immediately stop swimming in the direction you are heading. Try and swim in a direction where you do not feel the tingling and exit the water as quickly as possible; avoiding metal stairs and ladders.

Pool owners

  • Have an experienced electrician install the wiring of a new hot tub or pool.
  • Have a qualified electrician periodically inspect and — where necessary — replace or upgrade the electrical devices or equipment that keep your pool or hot tub electrically safe.
  • Have the electrician show you how to turn off all power in case of an emergency.
  • If there are overhead electrical lines, make sure they have proper clearance over the pool and other structures, such as a diving board.

Boat owners

  • Avoid entering the water when launching or loading a boat.
  • Have your boat’s electrical system inspected by a qualified marine electrician to be sure it meets the required codes of your area every year and after a storm.
  • Have ground fault circuit protection installed on circuits supplying the boat; Use only portable GFCIs or shore power cords that bear the proper listing mark for marine applications when using electricity near water.
  • Never modify the electrical system on a boat or shore power to make something work.
  • Always Find a licensed, qualified professional to help determine the cause of any problem.

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