Insurance Helper Blog




Electric Shock Drowning – Is Your Dock Harboring A Silent Killer?

Electric shock drowning, often called ESD is a relatively unknown danger to swimmers and boat owners.  As more and more docks are incorporating shore power for lights and other electrical conveniences, cases of ESD are on the rise.  And since so few people are aware of this risk, there will continue to be many more innocent victims each year.

Electric Shock Drowning is caused by small amounts of 120 volt alternating current leaking into fresh water in places where swimmers or divers may be electrocuted or incapacitated by the current causing immediate death or death by drowning.  ESD is a fresh water phenomenon because fresh water is highly resistant to electrical flow.  This means that a swimmer in in the path of this current becomes the path of least resistance for the electrical current.  It takes very few amps to incapacitate a person and lead to drowning.

While most ESD fatalities happen around docks and marinas, there have also been cases reported at water fountains, irrigation ditches, golf course ponds and other bodies of water.  But the most common cause of ESD comes from a boat plugged in to shore power.  In order for AC current to escape into the water around the boat, two things must occur.  The first is some electrical fault on the boat.  This would be a short circuit, a wiring error or a malfunctioning appliance which is sending AC electricity away from its intended path.  Bear in mind that AC electricity travels in a loop, from its source to the load and back again, forming what is called a circuit.  If this circuit is broken, the electricity will try to find a way back to its source.  A proper AC setup will include a green grounding wire that is a backup return path for electricity to complete its circuit in the case of a fault in the circuit.   So the second thing that must go wrong is that this backup grounding system has a break in it so that it does not function as a return path to the source.

So what can you do to protect your loved ones from ESD?  The number one option would be to never swim around docks or marinas where shore sourced electricity is present unless that electricity is turned off.  Also, if you must swim or dive around your boat in order to work on fittings or equipment, make sure that all electricity is turned off before you enter the water.  If you feel tingling or shocks while swimming, do not swim toward the dock.  Swim away from the dock or marina and head to shore 100 yards or more away.  When rescuing an ESD victim, do not go in the water as that could make you a victim as well.  Instead, turn off the shore power connection at the meter or unplug the shore power cords, then throw a line to the person or row out to them.  And most importantly, spread the word about the risks ESD to all of your friends and family who have docks or spend time at marinas.

If you own a dock that will use shore power, post no swimming signs at your dock.  Only hire trained marine electricians to handle the wiring at your dock as those not trained as marine electricians may create hazards with their lack of understanding about the special needs and requirements of this specialized area of electrical installations.  You can purchase testers that can test your dock and the waters around it for electricity leaks.  In addition you should consider the following protective devices for your dock.

Galvanic Isolators – These are designed to help prevent your boat from suffering from or contributing to galvanic corrosion while plugged in to shore power.  Choose a failsafe model that requires that if it fails, it will fail in the off position.

Reverse Polarity Indicator – Can tell you if a neutral wire becomes hot thus removing your protections from circuit breakers that are installed on hot wires.

Isolation Transformer – This device transfers electricity from the shore to the boat without the shore wires physically touching the boat’s wires.  If you have a fault, then the current no longer seeks a path through the water back to shore.

Our culture has a long history of sharing good times playing and swimming around our docks but the news of ESD has not been shared enough to let everyone know that these past places of water fun are now much more dangerous with the addition of shore power.  Please share this information with anyone you know who may be at risk.


National Teen Drive Safety Week

With October 20th through the 26th being National Teen Driver Safety Week, I thought it might be a good time to review the parent’s role in teaching a teen aged child how to drive safely.  The theme of this year’s NTDSW is: It Takes Two – shared Expectations for Teens And Parents.

Learning to drive is an important and life changing process for most teens and for their parents as well.  In NC, our public schools take on some of this instruction but most teens generally only receive about 6 hours of time behind the wheel in drivers’ education programs.  Obviously this is not enough time to learn to drive safely.  We advocate that parents try to spend at least 100 hours in the passenger seat with their teen behind the wheel learning from them.  These supervised hours are critical to the success of the driving training that a parent offers to his or her child and may make the difference between surviving the teen driving years and not doing so.

Understanding the statistical realities for inexperienced drivers will also help a parent to know where to focus the training.  For instance, a recent study found that 75% of serious teen automobile accidents were the result driver error and that more than half of these wrecks were caused by one of three mistakes made by the teen aged driver.  The three most common errors in judgment were:

  1. Driving too fast for road conditions
  2. Driving while distracted
  3. Failure to detect a hazard

To help with the teaching process, Clinard Insurance Group has created a driver training booklet that breaks down the teaching process into an organized, step by step approach.  You should also keep a log of the hours that your child drives to help give them the incentive needed to learn these skills so that your teen will understand where he or she is in the training process and will know what is required to finish this training.  Learn more about this training booklet here.

Once your child has completed the training while driving with you under a license permit, then he or she will be ready to obtain a restricted driving license.  Do not let up in your supervision of your child at this point.  Now you will have to take the time to learn the rules of the graduated license system in your state and make sure that you consistently apply them to your newly licensed teen driver.  Your teen will tell you that no other parents are making their children follow these rules to the letter of the law.  They will be wrong when they say this and it is your job to make sure that they move through the graduated licensing process correctly.  Graduated licensing programs have had a major impact in reducing deaths and injuries for teen drivers in states that have implemented them so please follow that process all the way to the end.

It’s pretty scary when your child gets in the car and pulls out of the driveway for the first time without you in the car.   I know, I’ve been there with all three of my children.  You can reduce those fears by teaching your teen the skills needed to be a safe and competent driver from the beginning.  If you need any help with this process, call us, we are here for you and will do all that we can to help you.  You can reach us, toll free, at 877-687-7557.