Electrical accidents in the home are a common occurrence and can range from a slight electrical shock to a life-threatening incident. To ensure the safety of your home and minimize the possibility of a serious electrical injury, conduct an electrical safety audit, both inside and outside, and make any necessary improvements as quickly as possible.
- Be sure your home is properly grounded according to the National Electric Code. If you are not sure, obtain a ground detector from your local building supply or hardware store and follow the manufacturer's direction for its use.
- Have any wiring projects performed by a licensed electrician to assure conformance to the National Electric Code and any additional local codes.
- Be sure that any outdoor electrical outlets are designed and approved for outdoor use and are equipped with the appropriate covers.
- If your home is equipped with an older style fuse box, never replace a blown fuse with a larger size fuse or another device. This could result in fire or serious injury.
- Have the electric department install a service entrance surge protector between the incoming power and the electric meter. This will prevent damage to motor-driven appliances (air conditioners and heat pumps, washers and dryers, refrigerators and freezers, dishwashers and hard-wired fans, etc.) in the event of electrical surges caused by lightning or other sources.
- If you are working outdoors, be aware of the location of incoming utility lines. Striking them with ladders, tools or other devices could cause serious injury or death.
- Inspect all electrical cords for signs of wear. Repair or replace the cord before using it If the insulation is damaged or frayed
- Never cut the ground connector off a cord or use an adapter to bypass it. Always ground any electrical device for your safety.
- When using extension cords, never connect more devices into the cord than there is an outlet for. This could overload the rating of the cord, resulting in a fire.
- Make sure the rating of the cord (in amps) is greater than the device being connected to it. Some devices, like power saws, hedge trimmers, air compressors, etc. have high ratings not suited for use on small, low-rated cords.
Appliances and Electronic Devices
- Use point-of-use surge protectors to prevent damage to electronic devices (computers, stereos, TV's, microwave ovens, etc.) and to provide insurance in case the surge protector fails to perform properly. For TVs and phone devices, be sure the surge protector provides inputs for the coaxial cable or phone line as well. For more information, check out our section on Surge Protection.
- Do not use electrical appliances (hair dryers, food processors, electric knives, etc.) around water (sinks, bathtubs, water on counters). This can cause a ground condition which can lead to serious injury or death.
- Replace electric outlets in kitchens, bathrooms, laundry rooms and other "wet areas" with ground-fault detector outlets for added safety.
- Plug appliances directly into grounded electrical outlets. Do not use extension cords unless absolutely necessary.
- Keep cords away from moving or heated parts of appliances to prevent damage to the cord and possible injury or fire.
Responding to Electrical Emergencies
Step 1: Assess
- Survey the scene to determine the type of accident and whether it is safe to approach the accident. Look for loose wires, electrical sparks, standing water, etc., that could still be conducting electricity.
- If you are involved in an automobile accident and there are wires on your car, stay in your vehicle until the wires are removed by the electric department.
Step 2: Act
- Disconnect the source of power that caused the accident. Unplug power tools or appliances, or throw the breaker on the affected circuit. If unsure, throw the main breaker.
- Assign someone to immediately call for emergency medical assistance.
- If you are qualified, conduct a primary assessment. Check the patient's ABC's in the position the patient was found - do not move them:
- Arousal - What is the patient's level of consciousness?
- Airway - Make sure the person's airway is open
- Breathing - Is the patient breathing? If not, mouth-to-mouth resuscitation is required.
- Bleeding - Check the patient for signs of severe bleeding. Control with direct pressure as required.
- Circulation - Check the patient's carotid artery for a pulse. If no pulse is detected, apply CPR if you are trained.
- Shock - Treat the patient for shock. Elevate the feet above the head if no injury is present, and maintain the patient's normal body temperature, warming or cooling the patient as appropriate.
- Maintain the patient until the emergency medical service responds. Tell the EMS personnel the circumstances of the accident and what you have done to assist the patient.
Step 3: Evaluate
- Patients of electric shock should seek medical evaluation. The introduction of an electrical shock to the body can alter the body's own electrical impulses. This change may be unnoticeable at first, becoming more serious over time.