High waters raise risk of electric shock drowning

SOUTH HAVEN, Mich. (WOOD) — With record high water levels comes a higher risk of electrocution — a danger prompting action from South Haven.

The city has a plan in place to reduce the risk of electric shock drownings.

Harbor master and assistant city manager Kate Hosier said crews are keeping a close eye on lake levels with water already at the bottom of the docks.

“We have protocols in place that when the water is over the dock that we immediately shut off the electricity,” she said.

According to Hosier, the city maintains 220 of the more than 1,200 slips in the area.

A state grant helped pay for upgraded wiring at South Haven Municipal Marina South. The new system reduces the amount of electricity leaking into the water and allows crews to address potential problems in specific areas.

“So if there’s one to two docks that are maybe having more leakage, the entire marina doesn’t go out of power,” Hosier said. “We can isolate.”

The harbor master said fresh water marinas pose the greatest risk of electrocution.

“In salt water, the human body is not a better conduit,” Hosier said. “In fresh water, current will go to what conducts it better through the water, and that is a saltwater body.”

Jim Quinn, a firefighter and paramedic with South Haven Area Emergency Services, said rescuing someone in this situation can be challenging since first responders have to cut power to the area before entering the water.

High water levels have first-responders on alert.

“The water levels are definitely coming up to bottoms of docks. We’re starting to see it to the point where there’s really no gaps underneath the docks,” Quinn said.

“We’re at the point where even some of the docks are underwater,” he added.

While the city marina docks are not yet underwater, Hosier believes the water levels and the risk of electric shock drowning will not subside anytime soon.

“We’re not hearing any information that it will slow down. If anything, we’re hearing about it going higher or staying the same and so the reality is, this is here for a while,” Hosier said.

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