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How can you reduce the risk of electric shock in the water?

Like many other North Carolina families hoping to escape the summer heat, you pack up your beach clothes and your loved ones and head to the lake house. While enjoying an afternoon of diving off the dock, your children complain that they feel painful tingling in the water. Panicked, you tell them to swim away from the dock, search for the source of the electricity and find it – a frayed wire has fallen from a dock outlet and is dangling in the water.

Fortunately, you averted disaster by thinking quickly and giving your children the correct instructions. If you feel electrical tingling while swimming, the safest thing to do is to swim away from the dock or boat and call for help. However, until this incident, you might not have given much thought to the danger of drowning by electric shock. In fact, the Electric Shock Drowning Prevention Association calls it an invisible danger. You can’t see electricity in the water, and often you don’t know an electric charge is causing someone to drown until it is too late.

When you come into contact with a strong electrical charge, your muscles are paralyzed, creating a drowning risk. You might also suffer burns or cardiac arrest. How do you protect yourself and your family from this hazard? The following tips may help:

  • Use a plastic or wooden ladder instead of a metal one at the dock and on your boat.
  • Test the water with an aquatic electricity tester before swimming.
  • Don’t swim in marinas, where there is a significant amount of electricity on docks and boats.
  • Perform regular inspections and maintenance on the electrical components at your dock and on your boat.

If you or a family member suffers an injury from electricity at a marina, it may be the marina owner’s responsibility to cover your medical expenses.

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