Electrocution may present as a vital emergency, for as long as the victim is in contact with the electrical current, the heart is being damaged, and this may be irreversible. The main danger for first aiders is in disconnecting the power and making certain that they, too, are not electrocuted.
Burns are usually small, oval, sharply demarcated painless areas on the skin that take a long time to heal, and probably many weeks before the scab lifts off.
Make certain that electrical cords are kept in good repair. Money spent in having frayed ends to electrical gear repaired is not wasted. It may be lifesaving. Teach children from an early age the risks of tampering with electrical gadgets, connections and sockets, especially those placed near the floor. It’s now possible to place protective covers over these to avoid metal items being poked down the holes.
- The patient may be unconscious, and the heart and breathing may have ceased.
- Evidence of continuing connection with the source may be apparent.
- Patient may be paralyzed due to the current.
- Unconsciousness and death.
- Heart and respiratory failure may occur rapidly and be irreversible.
- Check for danger, and make patient safe. Call for immediate help.
- Disconnect the source of current, if this can be safely done. Avoid becoming involved with the current yourself, for this could be disastrous. (It has happened.) See precautions below.
- Check for the respiration and pulse of patient. Pulse is felt at the neck. If neither pulse nor respiration is present, embark immediately on resuscitation. This will involve external cardiac massage (to restart the heartbeat), and mouth-to-mouth resuscitation if breathing has stopped. It is an advantage to have a trained assistant.
- When vital signs are re-established, treat burns if necessary.
It is essential that great care be taken in cases where electrocution is suspected. If easily reached, switch off the current or, alternatively, pull the cord from the socket. Under no circumstances cut the cord, for this could electrocute you. If this is not possible, it is essential to remove the patient from the current. This is a dangerous procedure, and adequate insulation is vital. Thick rubber gloves, a heavy piece of clothing such as a coat, piece of dry wood or rolled-up newspaper may be used. Stand on a dry surface. It may be possible to kick the victim away from the current source.
Water is a ready conductor of electric currents, and it is vital to remember this. Wet floors could be dangerous. Never use water on an electrical fire until the power has been cut off; rather try to smother it. If high voltage is involved, keep clear until this has been disconnected by the authorities.
It may be necessary to treat electrical burns afterwards, but getting the patient free from the current and artificially resuscitating them is the first essential.