Coast Guard Auxiliary warns of electric shock drowning ahead of Memorial Day weekend

TUSCALOOSA COUNTY, AL (WBRC) - Ahead of the Memorial Day weekend, officials with the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary want to warn people about what is sometimes called a "silent killer": electric shock drowning.

Electric Shock Drowning (ESD) happens when electric current passes through the body and results in electrocution or paralysis, leaving someone unable to swim. The electricity in the water typically originates from the wiring of a dock or marina, or from a boat.

According to the Electric Shock Drowning Prevention Association, there is no visible way to tell if water surrounding a boat, marina or dock is energized or could become energized within seconds with deadly levels of electricity.

With two recent deaths attributed to ESD at Lake Tuscaloosa, the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary wants to make sure people are aware of ESD, and know how to protect themselves.

Coast Guard Auxiliary Public Affairs Officer Jerry Miller encourages boat dock owners to have their docks inspected by an electrician. Also, he encourages boat dock owners who know someone will be swimming near their dock to turn off power to the dock.

To those who will be in the water, Miller says it is another reason to always wear a life jacket.

"Again, you've got to come back and rely on your life jacket," Miller said. "That's going to save your life."

"Because even if you are shocked, even if it is a serious shock, at least someone can get to you. At least you're not going to go to the bottom of the water and no one knows what happened to you."

Miller says one of the reasons many people do not know about ESD is that unless a witness is present, there is no evidence that a drowning resulted from electric shock.

The Electric Shock Drowning Prevention Association (ESDPA) strongly discourages swimming around boats, docks and marinas that use AC electrical power for any purpose.

The ESDPA has many more online resources for learning about and preventing ESD. Find them here: electricshockdrowning.org.

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