Know the dangers & how to respond

Why electricity can be dangerous
Learn the facts about why electricity is dangerous, and how to respond if an accident occurs.
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High voltage warning sign Before learning how to keep your home safe, it's important to understand why electricity is dangerous:

  • Electricity always tries to find the easiest path to the ground.
  • Electricity flows easily through water.
  • The human body is 70 percent water.

These three facts add up to a very dangerous situation for anyone who gets too close to an electrical current.

Many people think if they are shocked, they can pull away and not get hurt. But electricity travels at the speed of light, so a person has virtually no chance of pulling away without injury.

An electric shock affects the body in several ways:

  • Muscle contractions lock the victim into the circuit.
  • Chest muscles contract, causing difficulty breathing and unconsciousness.
  • Heartbeat is interrupted and veins are constricted.
  • Burns occur at the entrance and exit points of the current.
  • Partial or total paralysis.

If an electrical accident, it's important to know how to respond without getting hurt yourself.

  • Do not touch the victim until the circuit has been turned off - unplug the appliance from the outlet or turn off the power at the fuse box or circuit breaker first.
  • Call 911, making sure to tell the dispatcher it is an electrical accident.
  • If you're sure the circuit has been turned off, administer first aid (CPR or mouth-to-mouth resuscitation if you are certified).

Downed power lineAlways seek medical help for an electrical contact accident. Electricity burns from the inside out, so some injuries might not be visible; your heart also can be affected several hours after the contact.

If you’re in a car accident involving a power line, stay in your vehicle until help arrives.

If you absolutely must leave the vehicle, hop out on both feet, being careful not to touch the car and the ground at the same time. Continue hopping with your feet together until you're as far away as possible.

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