Most electrical problems that occur in the home are minor. But with electricity, there’s always the possibility of an issue developing into a legitimate emergency. There’s the potential for fire, serious injuries, and even death. Having a plan of action in place makes it easier to do the right thing during an actual crisis. With that in mind, here are 10 steps that you should take if you’re faced with an electrical emergency.

1. Assess the Situation

It’s important to stay calm in an emergency so that you can think clearly and logically and make good decisions. This is easier for some people than others, as we all react differently to the fight-or-flight response. Experts recommend deep breathing techniques as a way to suppress panic and focus on the matters at hand. Once your emotions are under control, check your surroundings to determine what your most logical next step is.

2. Evacuate if Necessary

Can you gain control of the situation without harming yourself? If your answer to that question is no, then you should warn anyone else nearby before exiting the premises immediately. Once outside, put at least 20 feet between you and the fire or other hazard. Then, call 911.

3. Remain Clear of Downed Lines, Water, and Wet Surfaces

If you’re dealing with a downed electrical line, the minimum safe distance is 30 feet. Keep moving and don’t call 911 until you reach that distance. Even if the line is not currently sparking, humming, or dancing, it can begin without notice. If the line is a transmission line, the minimum safe distance increases to 100 feet. If you’re unsure what type of line it is, keep moving until you’re 100 feet away.

If you’ve assessed the situation and decided to remain, scan the area for standing water or wet areas. Minerals in water conduct electricity and increase the likelihood of electrical shock. Ensure that your hands are dry and that there’s no water in the vicinity before proceeding.

4. Do Not Touch

Avoid touching anything that has the potential to shock you before cutting off the power. If a person has received a serious electric shock, your first impulse will be to go to their aid, but don’t give into that impulse.

If that person is receiving an ongoing shock, it will pass through them to you. A person receiving an electrical shock can appear “stuck.” For instance, they may have a tight grip on the cable shocking them and unable to let go. This is due to voltage causing the muscles to contract. The person will relax and let go as soon as you have cut the power.

5. Cut the Power

The next step is to turn off the power source. How you should do this may depend on the type of electrical emergency. In most cases, you will have the option of disabling power to the entire home via the electrical panel. Even if there’s a fire, go to the electrical panel first. Disabling the power will mitigate the severity of the fire.

If the electrical emergency is appliance-related, you can instead disable the device directly. If it is safe to do so, remove its plug from the outlet. If you’re unsure whether it’s safe, you’re still better off shutting down power via the panel. If the panel is buzzing or even humming, you should leave the premises instead and call 911.

6. Use a Fire Extinguisher

The U.S. Fire Administration warns that you should never try to put out a large fire on your own. If you’re unsure whether the fire is large or not, play it safe. Go outside, and call 911. If the fire is manageable, use a fire extinguisher to put the fire out.

Many homes have an ABC fire extinguisher, which is a multipurpose extinguisher. These are generally not the most effective but are versatile. You can use them in most electrical emergencies. If you have distinct fire extinguishers, you should use a Class A model if you were able to cut the power. Class A extinguishers use water. If you were not able to cut the power, you should use a Class C-rated extinguisher. Class C models use a chemical component and are safe for electrically energized fires.

7. Remove Injured People

Once you have shut the power off and put the fire out, it is safe to remove anyone who was injured by the electrical emergency from danger. Only move a shocked person as far as is necessary for them to be safe from hazards. Unless you think you will cause pain, lay the person down. Elevate their feet and legs slightly. Keep the person still.

8. Call 911

If an injured person is to remain in the home, you can stay with them. Otherwise, everyone should exit the premises. Once you are in a safe area from the hazard, call 911. If multiple people can help, someone else can call 911 right away while you handle the other steps discussed.

If you’re calling 911, provide the dispatcher with the address and clear details about what has transpired. Answer any questions from the dispatcher as concisely and accurately as possible. Don’t worry about contacting anyone else at this point. The dispatcher will contact the police, other first responders, and the utility company as needed.

9. Administer First Aid

If a victim is unconscious and not responding, you should perform CPR if you have training. You should not perform CPR if you do not have training, as you can do more harm than good. If the person is responsive, you can tend to any injuries until medical professionals arrive. This can include using cold water for burns. You can also clean and wrap any lacerations if you are trained to do so.

10. Contact Your Electric Company and Electrician

Once you have cooperated with first responders, contact your electric company. The fire department has likely alerted them, but this is an opportunity for them to give you any necessary information about how your home or property may be affected going forward. If there is potential damage to your electric system, call an electrician who provides emergency services. A professional electrician should inspect the system before turning it back on.

Be Prepared

Preparation is key to navigating an electrical emergency successfully. Have appropriate fire extinguishers. More importantly, take a fire extinguisher class. There are free local and online classes. You don’t want an electric emergency to be the first time you use an extinguisher.

Have flashlights on hand in case an emergency occurs at night. You should have a first aid kit and keep it stocked up and refreshed. You should also schedule an electrical inspection every three to five years. If you live in an older home with its original electrical system, increase the time frame to every two to three years.

Your Local Electrical Pros in the Dallas-Fort Worth Area

If you want to prepare your home for an electrical emergency, HR Phoenix can help. We are a family-owned and -operated residential and commercial electrical company that’s proud to serve the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. Through our approach to customer service and care, we have earned BBB accreditation with an A+ rating.

Besides our electrical repair services, we offer a full range of residential and commercial services. These include emergency repairs, water heater installation, and drain cleaning. Call us today or contact us online to schedule an appointment or with any questions about our products and services.

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