EMS, first responders and everyone must know these safety tips when rendering electric shock first aid
If you or a loved one has been injured in an electricity-related incident, then knowing how to provide electric shock first aid will be essential to protecting yourself or your loved one and preventing further injury.
Electric shock can cause its victims to suffer serious, life-altering injuries, which is why administering first aid as soon as possible is vital.
Today, I want to talk about what everyone – including emergency responders and EMS should do – when they are confronted with an accident scene involving a person who has suffered an electric shock.
Safety tips when rendering electric shock first aid at an accident scene
Here is safety advice for anyone including first responders to keep in mind when they are attempting to provide electric shock first aid to a shock victim:
- Because electric shock accident scenes may pose an ongoing danger to the victim and to people trying to administer electric shock first aid, it’s crucial that it first be determined that the scene is safe. If it’s not safe, then first aid must be delayed until the arrival of trained emergency personnel and/or utility workers to cut electricity to the area.
- One of the most important electric shock first aid safety steps is making sure the victim is no longer in contact with the electricity source that caused the electric shock and/or no longer within the rings of voltage given off by the electricity source. Called “step potential,” this phenomenon describes how the conductor of electricity gives off rippling waves of voltage which can injure or kill a person, even though he or she has not even touched or made direct contact with the downed powerline or other conductor. If the victim is still in contact with – or within “step potential” range of – the electricity source, then do not touch them.
- Where possible, turn off the electricity source that caused the electric shock. Alternatively, if it can be safely done without creating a risk of additional electric shock, try to move the electricity source away from the victim by using a dry, nonconducting object made of cardboard, plastic, wood, rubber, rope or fiberglass. Do not us anything made of metal or that is wet or moist as all of those are conductors of electricity.
- Watch for downed power lines at a car accident (especially if one or more of the vehicles struck a utility pole). Always consider and treat a downed power line as energized unless and until a utility professional has assured you otherwise.
- Watch for downed power lines in more remote areas. For instance, the downed power line may have made contact with a guy wire, which is wire that stabilizes the utility pole.
- Call 911 as well as local emergency services and the relevant utility or power company that provides the electricity in question.
What treatment should be included as part of the electric shock first aid rendered at an accident scene?
Electric shock can be unlike many other injuries, especially because its effects on the body are not always immediately apparent to EMS, first responders and other care providers.
At a minimum, the following electric shock first aid treatment should be considered:
- Check to make sure the victim can breathe and is breathing. If he or she is not breathing or having difficulty, then begin mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. As necessary, use supplemental oxygen and engage a cardiac monitor.
- Check the victim’s heartbeat. If his or her heart has stopped beating, then someone trained in CPR will need to immediately begin CPR.
- If the victim is vomiting, losing color in his or her face and/or feeling faint, then he or she may be going into shock and must immediately be treated for shock. This includes lying the victim down on his or her side if there’s a loss consciousness.
- Examine the victim for contact points (i.e., points on the skin that show where a burn occurred), fractures, dislocations and neurological deficits. Provide spine assessment and immobilization where necessary.
- Examine the victim for thermal burns.
- Consider the possibility of internal injuries.
- Treat and manage full-thickness thermal burns.
- Keep the victim warm, but be sure to not use a blanket or towel because loose fibers can stick to the burns.
- Treat severe electrical burns by doing the following: Cutting away loose clothing; immersing the burned areas in cold water; and, covering burned areas with a sterile gauze bandage. Do not use a Band-Aid or anything that will stick or adhere to the burn.