Electric Shock Drowning Resource Center


ESD Articles:

Avoid Electric Shock Drowning by David Rifkin. Knowing where the dangers are and how to check for leaking AC electricity in the water could be a lifesaver. Spring is the time to do it, before you put boats and people in the water.

ESD Explained by Beth Leonard. A July 2013 Seaworthy article that provides an easy-to-understand explanation of where, how, and why ESD occurs, and what boat owners, dock owners, and swimmers need to know about it. Download PDF version of this article.

ESD Tech Talk by Beth Leonard. Article from July 2013 Seaworthy detailing how and why bringing together AC and DC systems on a boat can lead to ESD.

Raising Awareness About Electric Shock Drowning by Bob Adriance. October 2012 Seaworthy article on ESD.

A Preventable Dockside Tragedy by Kevin Ritz. Kevin Ritz's October 2009 Seaworthy article about losing his son, Lucas, in 1999.

The Case of the Hot Marina by Jim Shafer. An article on the Electrical Construction & Maintenance website about a mistake in wiring on a houseboat that killed two people and how it could have been avoided.


Electric Shock Drowning Explained. An introduction to ESD including why it's so dangerous, basic testing techniques, how to tell ESD from drowning, and what to do — and not do — for victims.

Electric Shock Drowning: The Invisible Killer by Kevin Ritz. An overview of the issues surrounding ESD first presented as a webinar hosted by ABYC and including a detailed explanation of how Kevin’s son died.

Analyzing Boatside Water-shock Hazard by James E. Shafer and Capt. David Rifkin (USN, Ret). A detailed look at the technical aspects of ESD first presented at IBEX in 2007.

Marina Dock Safety by Ed Sherman and Chris Nolan. A hands on, step-by-step discussion of how electrical faults occur and how to diagnose them.

In-Water Shock Hazard Mitigation Strategies by James E. Shafer and Capt. David Rifkin (USN, Ret). The final report from a Coast Guard grant to quantify the risks and reproduce the circumstances under which ESD occurs.

Circuit Tester Information by Capt. David Rifkin (USN, Ret). A basic explanation of how to read and interpret a circuit tester.

Additional Resources:

Quality Marine Services. Click on the documents tab for an archive of articles on the technical aspects of ESD.

Dan Small Outdoors Radio interview with Beth Leonard.

What To Do — And Not Do For A Victim:

U.S. Army website. A description of reach, throw, row, but don't go — how to rescue someone from the water.

Hardware And Tools:

North Shore Safety can make up power cords or pigtails with ELCIs or GFCIs to your specifications. They also sell ELCIs for installation in a boat.

Lowe's Pigtails with built in GFCIs.

E-Z Check® Circuit Testers. An inexpensive circuit tester.

SureTest® Circuit Analyzer. A much more sophisticated, and accurate, circuit tester.

Clamp On HiTester from Hioki. A good clamp meter.

— Published: July 2013