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State of Emergency, Part One: What To Do in an Electrical Emergency

“With great power, comes great responsibility.”

While this quote originated in a superhero comic book, it’s applicable to many real life situations, and it’s certainly true of electricity. We harness electricity to run our homes and businesses, providing us with light, heat, and the energy to make our modern conveniences go. There’s no doubt electricity is a source of great power. And alongside that, we have the great responsibility to educate ourselves on what to do when an electrical emergency occurs. From a simple power outage to an electrical fire, your residential electrician guides you through the steps to take when danger strikes.

Power Outage

  • First, find out if the problem is confined to your home or if it’s affecting the entire neighborhood. Is every house on your block dark? If so, contact your electrical company to report the outage and see if there’s an estimated restoration time. If it appears to be just your home that’s affected, reset your circuit breakers — there might be a short circuit or tripped breaker in your system. Contact your residential electrician for any necessary repairs.
  • Turn off all the lights and unplug appliances. This will protect your home from circuit overloads when the power is restored. Remember, computers and other expensive electronics should have the added safety measure of a surge protector.
  • Keep your refrigerator and freezer doors closed to keep food cold and prevent spoilage. Depending on the length of the outage, some food may not be safe to eat. If you have any doubts, discard it.
  • When your power is restored, give it a few minutes before turning on lights and plugging equipment back in. Go slowly, connecting one appliance at a time.

Electrical Shock

  • If someone has come into contact with live electrical wires, the most important thing to remember is not to touch them. The electricity could injure you as well. Instead, try to separate the person from the current using a non-conducting material (a broom handle or other piece of wood, rope, PVC pipe). Make sure the object you use is completely dry.
  • Turn off the power. If you know where the circuit breaker is, turn it off immediately. Remember that the longer the person is exposed to electrical contact, the more serious (potentially fatal) their injuries will be. Will it take you longer to cut the electricity off from the source or to remove the person from contact as described above?
  • Call 911 immediately. If CPR or other first aid is needed, administer it to the best of your abilities. (The 911 responder can talk you through the essentials.) Even if the person feels fine, they should still be examined by a medical professional, as injuries might not be immediately noticeable.
  • If the source of electrical contact is high voltage outdoor wires, do not attempt to remove the person. Stay at least 20 feet away (further if the wire is jumping or sparking) and contact 911 and then the power company.

Stay tuned next week as we cover other possible emergency situations. In the meantime, if you notice anything that looks unsafe (flickering lights, tripping breakers, blackened wires) contact your electrician for an emergency repair immediately — it’s the responsible thing to do.

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