Fire Marshal reminds of ESD danger

On July 4 of this year, it will be five years since Noah Dean Winstead and Nate Lynam lost their lives in Cherokee Lake when they came into contact with an electrical current while swimming near a marina.

In the wake of their tragic deaths, the Noah Dean and Nate Act was passed, requiring inspections of over 300 public marinas and docks across the state. Further, boat dock or marina operators must comply with equipment requirements preventing possible electrical shocks and electrocution.

During the Memorial Day holiday weekend, the Tennessee State Fire Marshal’s Office reminds Tennesseans to be especially mindful of the risks from electrical shocks while boating or spending time on the water this summer.

Electrical Shock Drowning can occur when swimmers come into contact with electrical currents while in the water. Winstead was 10 and Lynam 11 when they died from ESD.

After passage of the bill, the SFMO began its marina inspection program in order to help improve safety at Tennessee’s public marinas and docks. Nearly all 300 Tennessee public marinas and docks have now been inspected. Results are updated monthly on the Department’s website.

“The safety of Tennesseans whether on land or water is the first priority of the State Fire Marshal’s Office,” said State Fire Marshal and Commissioner of Commerce & Insurance Julie Mix McPeak. “Our inspection program provides Tennesseans with important information about public marinas and shows our commitment to public safety.”

Tennesseans can help avoid Electric Shock Drowning (ESD) by remembering these important tips:


• To retrieve a person in the water, reach, throw and row, but do not go to them.

• Tell others about ESD. Most people have never heard of it and are unaware of its dangers.

• Make sure your children understand the importance of not swimming anywhere there could be electricity. Don’t let them roughhouse on docks.

• ESD victims are good candidates for successful Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR). Learn to perform CPR and maintain your training.


• Never swim within 100 yards of any freshwater marina or boatyard.

• Talk to marina owners or operators about the danger of ESD. Ask your marina operator to prohibit swimming at their facility and post signs.


• 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.


• 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.



• 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.



• 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. Remember to reach, throw, row but don’t go.

• 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 will be updated and posted to the SFMO’s website monthly.