What is electric shock drowning?

Know the signs of this hidden danger

Electric shock drowning (ESD) is a type of drowning that many people are not familiar with. ESD happens when electrical current seeps into water from a nearby electrical source such as a yacht, boat or dock. It can also happen in a pool, hot tub or water park if there is faulty wiring or other electrical issues.

To prevent and recognize ESD:

  • Do not swim around docks with electrical service or boats that are plugged into a power source.
  • If you are swimming and feel tingling or shocks, swim away from the dock or other electrical source.
    • Try to stay upright and tuck your legs up.
    • Alert others to cut the power source.
    • If you feel a shock, swim away from the dock.
  • Do not jump in to try and save someone you suspect is exposed to electricity in the water. Instead:
    • Eliminate the source of power.
    • Throw a float.
    • Call 9-1-1
  • After the power is shut off, pull the person in with the float rope. If you cannot find a pulse, start CPR.

Prevention and Maintenance


  • If you own a boat that has an electrical system, ensure circuits have GFCIs and check them often.


  • If you have a dock with electricity, have its electrical system inspected regularly by a licensed contractor.

While it is impossible to know if water is electrified just by looking, learning about the dangers of ESD can help keep you and others safe in the water.