Dealing with Electrical Emergencies

Eugene Vargas

Anybody who works with electricity (including contractors like Multiple Trades & Maintenance), either as part of their employment or as a homeowner carrying out DIY repairs, is at risk from being shocked by the electricity if they are not following the correct procedure. If this does happen, a situation can develop where an electrical fire has started, or another person has suffered from an electric shock. This article looks at the ways to deal with these two events.

Electrical Fires

Electrical fires may result from a product being wired incorrectly, or poorly, and if an outlet is overloaded. Even some items that are in a good condition, but draw on a lot of electrical power when in use,  may overload an outlet that can lead to a fire. Hair driers are a common example of this. It is critical to remember never to attempt to throw water on an electrical fire; this may only cause more damage and the destruction of the circuits. Instead, make sure that the property is equipped with the correct extinguisher. The correct extinguisher to use on an electrical fire are:

  • Ammonium phosphate filled extinguishers
  • Carbon dioxide extinguishers
  • Potassium or sodium bicarbonate extinguishers

Fires involving electricity are usually described as 'class E' fires, so ensure that your own extinguisher is suitable for tackling the fire before you use it. It is possible to get extinguishers that transcend one class of fire, for example, a 'class BE' extinguisher will safely eliminate fires that have started with oil or other flammable liquids, as well as electrical fires. Investing in these types of extinguishers is a good recommendation. It saves you from having to look through all of the extinguishers to determine which one is the correct one to use.

Electrical Accidents

If you find a person who has been shocked, make sure you do the following:

  • Call the emergency services immediately
  • Try to remove the electric cable or item from the person's hand. Do not use your own hands, you will need to use a nonconductive material, such as wood or plastic to remove it from their grip.
  • In an emergency, take off a piece of clothing and create a 'V' shape around the item. Pull it free using the clothing. A shirt or trousers are ideal
  • Give chest compressions if the person is unconscious; for every thirty compressions, give two blows of air into the person's mouth. Continue like this until the emergency services have arrived.

Being prepared for electrical emergencies could not only save a potentially life threatening fire from developing in a property, it could also save a life.