The severity of the electric shock a person may sustain highly depends on the voltage level of the electricity, how the current passed through the body, the individual’s health status and how quick first aid or treatment was provided.
For readers located in the United States, the standard procedure is to call 911-emergency hotline in instances of electrocution accidents. Electrical shocks require medical attention for all cases, even though the affected individual may seem ok after the incident.
It is necessary for the rescuer to call 911 immediately if the victim is observed with the following:
- No pulse
- Cardiac arrest
- Heart rhythm problems (arrhythmias)
- No breathing or respiratory failure
- Muscle pain and contractions
- Convulsions or seizures
- Numbness and tingling sensation
The 911-emergency operator may order the caller or rescue provider to do the following steps. These are also the universal guidelines for providing first aid to electrocuted persons.
1. Assess first the victim and surroundings. Do not touch anything!
The victim may still be touching or in contact with the current source. Touching the victim may conduct the electricity from him or her to you. In addition, the victim may be wet. Water is a good conductor of electricity.
2. Have the victim separated away from the source of electricity
First, turn off the power outlet/switch:
- If the cause is an appliance, unplug the cord from the power outlet ( if plug is intact and undamaged). It is better to shut off the main power source using the fuse box, circuit breaker or the outside on/off switch.
If you cannot switch off the power:
- The rescuer should stand on anything that is non-conductive, dry and wide enough to accommodate both feet like books, newspaper and boards made out of wood.
- Have the power source separated away from the victim’s body using an object that is non-conductive in nature like plastic or wooden stick, light-weight chair or rubber doormat.
If a high voltage line is the source of the current:
- Call the local electric company provider and ask them to shut off the main voltage line.
- If the rescuer feels some tingling sensation creeping up the lower extremities, do not attempt to separate the victim from the current source. Carefully hop one foot to a non-conductive and safe area where you can stay until the lines are disconnected or shut off.
If the electricity line falls over a vehicle:
- Instruct the passengers to keep calm and stay inside the car not unless inevitable fire or explosion might happen.
3. If needed, perform CPR (Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation)
When it is already safe for the rescuer to touch the victim, CPR is done in cases of no observable breathing or pulse.
- Perform CPR for children.
- Perform CPR for adults.
4. Assess for other possible injuries
- If the victim is bleeding, apply pressure dressing such as clean cloth and have the affected area elevated if wound is found on the extremities.
- If the victim suffered from fall, possible fracture may also be suspected.
- Due to the electric current, burns are also probable injuries.
5. Stay put until the 911 or professional medical personnel arrives
- The physician will assess the victim for any other injuries from the electric shock such as fractures, dislocations, burns and other conditions.
- Medical examinations such as series of blood tests, ECG, MRI or CT scan might be needed afterwards.
- The victim may be needed admission into a hospital or burn facility for further care.
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