Electric shock drowning (ESD) is a serious danger in swimming pools and around boating docks, but many people have never heard of it.
A rare occurrence, but this past weekend, two women were found dead at a Tuscaloosa lake. There were no visible signs of death and now investigators are treating the case as an electric shock drowning.
"There's nothing to see. You could look at a lake, at a dock situation that is leaking lethal amounts of AC and theirs absolutely no way to detect it visually," said Kevin Ritz, spokesperson from the Electric Shock Prevention Association.
ESD occurs when electricity from a dock, pool, boat, or marina leaks into the water, and people enter the water unaware. The electricity shocks them, paralyzing their muscles making it impossible to swim then leading to the drowning.
"The other aspect is if the voltage gradient is intense enough but it'll paralyze not only your muscles but even your diaphragm and chest muscles so you can't even call for help or breathe even," explained Ritz.
"With water injuries, the shock is what renders you unconscious, then the drowning is what kills you," said Sean Gibson Dothan Battalion Chief.
ESD can occur virtually in any location where electricity is provided near water.
"It's because of faulty wiring, wiring that hasn't been inspected or perhaps wasn't even installed correctly in the first place," said Ritz.
"Commonly with swimming pools, it's the light. The light is what shocks, " said Gibson.
What's more, is the electricity makes it difficult for people to rescue someone without suffering a shock, too.
"You're best bet is going to be to find a non conducting source to pull the child to the side or pull them to a place that you can remove them without getting yourself inside of that electricity or that water with the electricity," explained Gibson.
And as challenging as it may be, do not use any source that could possibly be energize such as a metal ladder to get out of the pool or lake.
"What's changed is the amount of devices that we have aboard boats, on docks. The other thing you need to keep in mind is that are docks are getting older, these are dynamic objects, they move all the time because of waves and motion, wires change to and one of the big issues is they are not always properly inspected," explained Ritz.
The best way to prevent ESD is to have wires inspected regularly by a professional.
The number of people who drown as a result of electrocution is difficult to track each year because there is no post mortem evidence for a coroner to determine whether or not electricity was involved. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 3,000 people typically drown each year in the United States.
If you would like to know more visit: http://www.electricshockdrowning.org/