Tennessee State Fire Marshal’s Office
Agency Urges Consumers Be Wary of Electric Shock Drowning During Summer
Nashville, TN – With the arrival of summer and boating season, the Tennessee State Fire Marshal’s Office (SFMO) announces the successful completion of all inspections of Tennessee’s public marinas and docks.
The Clarksville Marina at Liberty Park in Clarksville, TN passed SFMO inspection. The inspection was completed December 21st, 2016.
The marina inspection program was created after the passage of Public Chapter 923 (2014)— more commonly referred to as the Noah Dean and Nate Act.
The bill was named after Noah Dean Winstead, 10, and Nate Lynam, 11, who died tragically on July 4th, 2012, after being electrocuted while swimming at the Cherokee Lake marina.
The Act requires that all public marinas and docks be inspected and that marina and boat dock operators must comply with equipment requirements preventing possible electrical shocks and electrocution.
The SFMO began inspecting marinas on January 1st, 2015 and completed the final inspection in advance of the December 31st, 2017 deadline. A complete list of public marinas and docks inspected and the results of those inspections can be found here.
“Ensuring the safety of Tennessee residents and visitors on the land or on public waters is the No. 1 priority of the Tennessee State Fire Marshal’s Office,” said Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance Commissioner and State Fire Marshal Julie Mix McPeak. “Not only does Tennessee have some of the country’s most beautiful waters, but our marina inspection program has helped make the time Tennesseans spend on the water safer.”
As a reminder for families and boat owners, the SFMO shares these tips to help avoid electric shock drowning (ESD). Remember:
- Never swim within 100 yards of any freshwater marina or boatyard.
- Talk to marina owners or operators about the dangers of ESD. If required signs are not posted, ask your marina operator to post signs prohibiting swimming at their facility or contact the State Fire Marshal to file a complaint.
If You Have a Boat
- Have your boat tested once a year to see if it is leaking electricity, or buy a clamp meter and test it yourself. If you find any problems, have your boat inspected by a qualified electrician trained to American Boat and Yacht Council (ABYC) standards. Have a qualified ABYC electrician install an Equipment Leakage Circuit Interrupter (ELCI) on your boat (refer them to the ABYC E-11 Standard) or use an ELCI in the shore power cord. As an alternative, install an isolation transformer on the boat.
- Test ELCI at least once a month or per the manufacturer’s specifications.
- Do not hire an electrician who is not familiar with ABYC standards to install electrical equipment on your boat. Many of the problems that lead to electrical faults result from the differences between shore and boat electrical systems and standards.
- Do not use common household extension cords for providing shore power to your boat. Use, and encourage other boaters to use, shore power cords built to UL standards.
- Never dive on your boat to work on underwater fittings when it is plugged in to shore power, even in saltwater.
If You Have a Private Dock
- Never swim within 100 yards of any dock using electrical power.
- If you have not electrified your dock or put an air conditioning system on your boat, weigh the risks carefully before doing so.
- If you need electricity on your dock, hire a licensed electrician and make sure the wiring meets the requirements. If your dock is already wired, hire an electrician to check that it was done properly. Because docks are exposed to the elements, their electrical systems should be inspected at least once a year.
- If you normally run a power cord from your house or garage to charge your batteries, make sure the outlet has a GFCI and include an ELCI somewhere in the shore power cord.
- Never swim off your dock without shutting down all shore power to the boat and the dock.
- Even if you adhere to all of these rules, nearby docks can still present a shock hazard. Educate your neighbors and work together with them to make the waterfront safe.
If You’re in the Water and Feel Tingling or Shocks
- Do not follow your instinct to swim toward the dock.
- Let everyone know what’s happening so they’ll understand the danger and react appropriately.
- Try to stay upright and back out of the area the way you came. Warn any other swimmers in the area of the danger, and then head for shore 100 yards or more from the dock.
- Alert the dock or marina owner and tell them to shut the power off to the dock until they locate the problem and correct it.
- Go to the hospital to make sure there are no lingering effects that could be dangerous.
If You Have to Rescue an ESD Victim
- Know how to distinguish drowning from ESD. Tingling, numbness, and pain all indicate ESD.
- Fight the instinct to enter the water. Many rescuers have died trying to help ESD victims.
- Call for help. Use 911 or VHF Channel 16 as appropriate.
- Turn off the shore power connection at the meter base and/or unplug shore power cords.
- Get the victim out of the water.
- If the person is not breathing or you cannot find a pulse, perform CPR until the local fire department or emergency responders arrive.
Marina inspection results are updated and posted to the SFMO’s website monthly. Marina inspections will continue across the state in the future, as the law requires an inspection every 5 years.