Electricity is as dangerous as it is helpful. A well-constructed home designed with an electrician’s expertise poses very little risk of accidental shock, but accidents can happen nonetheless. And there are electrical shock risks outside the home as well, including downed power lines and even lightning strikes.
When you or someone else receives an electrical shock, acting quickly and wisely can go a long way toward minimizing injury and preventing others from being shocked. Follow these steps to eliminate the danger and render aid.
Shocks In the Home
Most incidents of electrical shock in the home are from relatively low voltage sources. This doesn’t mean the shocks can’t be harmful or even fatal, but many will pass without any lasting harm. These types of shocks can come from exposed or faulty wiring, damaged power strips or outlets, or from live electricity carried across wet surfaces.
The first action you should take when someone receives an electric shock in the home is to remove the person from the source of electricity. If the victim is conscious, there’s a good chance the shock was only momentary and he has instinctively pulled away. But if the victim is still in contact with the source, touching the victim or the source can cause you to be shocked, as well.
The safest way to remove the source is to shut off the main circuit breaker to the home. But because it can take substantial time to reach the breaker box, it may be necessary to use a non-conducting object like a piece of wood or plastic to separate the victim and the source.
A minor electrical shock may result in little more than a skin burn, which can be easily treated with ointment and bandages. But the real damage from electrical shock is often hard to see. When electricity enters the body, it takes the quickest route to the ground, but it’s not easy to tell where that path runs. Along the way, it could cause damage to tissue and organs. The health effects are of particular concern to anyone with a heart condition, and it can trigger cardiac arrest.
Even if the victim seems OK after the shock, he should always see a doctor afterward to assess the damage. 911 should be called immediately if the victim experiences difficulty breathing, irregular heartbeat, muscle pain, seizures, disorientation or unconsciousness.
Shocks from high-voltage power lines or lightning should be handled differently. Call 911 right away. Never touch a live power line, even with a non-conductive tool.
If it’s safe to touch the victim, turn him on his side to assist with breathing. Cover the victim in a blanket to regulate body temperature, but don’t cover skin burns, as the blanket can stick to these areas. Talk to the victim and try to keep him conscious.
If you’re worried that you might have electrical shock risks in your home, it’s time to call an experienced local electrician to asses your system and make any necessary repairs.