Have you ever heard of Electric Shock Drowning? Sadly, far too many people have not. In many ways, this rarely-discussed phenomenon is a silent killer. On the Life Saver Pool Fence blog, we are dedicated to water safety. Therefore, we want to shine a light on this potential drowning hazard in order to help keep everyone safe.
Today, we’ll dive into the details of what Electric Shock Drowning is and how to protect yourself and your loved ones.
What is Electric Shock Drowning?
Put simply, electric shock drowning is what happens when a person is exposed to AC electrical currents while in the water. In situations with a high voltage current, the initial hit is often fatal. In other cases, being zapped will incapacitate the person in water. This often causes them to lose muscle control and helplessly drown.
On the whole, Electric Shock Drowning is often used as a catch-all phrase for any situation where an electric shock injures or kills a swimmer.
What Causes Electric Shock Drowning?
To be frank, any time an electrical current is near the water, there is a clear and present danger for people. By a marina or dock, the cause tends to be something like faulty wiring. But it can easily also happen near home swimming pools, hot tubs or even bathtubs. Keeping electrical devices plugged in, such as a stereo, an electric grill or even a hair dryer, can cause dire consequences.
Saltwater is Safer than Freshwater
Electric shock drowning happens almost exclusively near freshwater. You see, saltwater is significantly better at conducting electricity versus freshwater. While that may make it sound like saltwater is even more dangerous, the opposite is actually true.
A wet human body can be categorized somewhere in between both types of water. However, it is much closer to saltwater. In saltwater, the electricity would essentially “go around” your body. Your conductivity would slow the electricity down, but you’d be mostly safe. Meanwhile, in freshwater, the electrical current will try to go directly through you. Basically, it would use you as a sort of shortcut. Now, this doesn’t mean that saltwater is completely safe. For example, if you touch something metal, like a ladder, you’ll instantly turn yourself into an electrical “shortcut.”
What Does Electric Shock Drowning Look Like?
As we mentioned, electric shock drowning is a silent killer. Just like regular drowning, there won’t be a lot of noise or thrashing and splashing. Almost always, the victim will become quietly paralyzed and slip beneath the waves.
More often than not, if no one is there to witness the accident, no one will ever realize electricity was even involved. It often looks just like a fatal drowning. This is why it’s very important to never swim alone and beware a false sense of security.
Know Your Surroundings
If you’re heading into the water, it pays to pay close attention. There aren’t any telltale signs of electrified water. The best thing you can do is to be responsible and stay alert. In the same way that active supervision will keep others from drowning, taking a good long look at your environment can save your life.
Before taking a dip or heading out on a boat, take a close look at the wiring. Make sure there aren’t any electronics in danger of dipping into the water. Above all, remember how quickly water can be electrified. The moment a current enters the picture, safe water can become deadly. It can happen as soon as you flip a light switch.
Help Someone In Danger
First things first, if you see someone in danger and being shocked, do not jump in to save them. The water is still very much electrified. It will be just as dangerous to you.
The trick here is to get the victim away from the source of electricity as quickly as possible. Throw them a flotation device to attempt to move them away from danger. Reach out to them with a non-conductive pole of some sort. A wooden oar, for example, will work nicely.
Additionally, try to find the power source and shut it down. Call for help immediately, but above all, stay out of the water!
Now you know all about Electric Shock Drowning. This hazard costs many unsuspecting people their lives each year. Do your part to spread awareness and keep alert!