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Electric shock drowning

Electric Shock Syndrome

Did you know that you are at risk by entering the water near a boat or dock powered by electricity? ESD can be deadly and is the result of a person coming into contact with an electrical current in the water. Stray voltage can come from boats or docks with faulty wiring, frayed cords and devices not approved as shore- or marine-rated. It can cause complete loss of muscle control, the inability to move and, ultimately, lead to drowning. 

If you think someone has been shocked

  • Throw in a life ring or other floatation device.
  • Never enter the water. You could become a victim too!
  • Turn off the shore power connection and disconnect power cord from pedestal.
  • Call for help. Use 911 or VHF Channel 16 (as appropriate).

How to prevent ESD

  • Do not enter water near a marina or dock.
  • Turn off the shore power connection and/or disconnect power cord from pedestal.
  • If you feel a tingling sensation, get out of the water and report it to staff.
  • Notify the harbormaster of any electrical safety hazards so they can be fixed.
  • Pets are also impacted by ESD. Do not allow your pet to enter the water.

ESD is preventable and boaters are a large part of the solution. The following tips will help alleviate electrical currents entering the water

  • Have a qualified marine electrician
  • Install an equipment leakage circuit interrupter (ELCI) on your boat or use a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) in the shore power cord.
  • Perform an annual inspection of your boat's electrical system.
  • Test GFCI and ELCI protection as recommended by the manufacturer.
  • Use power cords that are in good condition and properly rated. Do not use common household extension cords.

Additional safety information

boating safety certificate

Boating safety certificate

Boaters born after June 30, 1996 and most personal watercraft operators must have a boating education card.

Great Lakes

Great Lakes beach safety

Rip currents, high waves and other dangerous currents and wave conditions can occur in the Great Lakes.

rules and regulations

Rules & regulations

It's your responsibility to know the rules and regulations before you go boating.