Summer is for Swimming, Sailing, and Safety
Summer months mean an increase in outdoor recreation activities such as swimming and sailing. Safety precautions such as wearing life vests, keeping an eye on children in the water, and avoiding alcohol while swimming/boating are ways to have fun and stay safe.
One hazard not often thought of is the risk of electric shock drowning, which happens when marina, onboard electrical systems, and pools/spas leak electric current into the water. The current then passes through the body, causing paralysis, and results in drowning.
NFPA’s What is electric shock drowning video offers Fire and Life Safety (FLS) educators a PSA style option of informing people of this often-overlooked risk, and can be paired with our marina and boating safety tip sheet and electrical safety around swimming pools, hot tubs, and spas tip sheet. These resources offer people key information on how to enjoy their water activities safely. Key tips include (but are not limited to):
For swimmers in marinas, lakes, and ponds:
- Never swim near a marina, dock, or boatyard.
- Obey all “no swimming signs” on docks.
For boat owners:
- Avoid entering the water when launching or loading your boat. These areas can contain stray electrical currents in the water, possibly leading to electric shock drowning or injury from shock, including death.
- Know where your main breaker(s) are located on both the boat and the shore power source so you can respond quickly in case of an emergency.
For people in pools, hot tubs, and spas:
- Look out for underwater lights that are not working properly, flicker or work intermittently.
- If tingling occurs, immediately stop swimming in your current direction. Try and swim in a direction where you had not felt the tingling, Exit the water as quickly as possible and avoid using metal ladders or rails. Touching metal may increase the risk of shock.
- Do not swim before, during or after thunderstorms.
For swimming pool owners:
- Have a qualified electrician periodically inspect and—where necessary—replace or upgrade the electrical devices or equipment that keep your pool, spa or hot tub electrically safe. Have him/her show you how to turn off all power in case of an emergency.
- Electrical appliances, equipment and cords should be kept at least 6 feet away from the water. When possible, use battery-operated instead of cord-connected appliances and equipment, such as televisions, radios, and stereos.