Most of us take electricity for granted as an easy way to power our homes but we should also be aware of the dangers. Electric shocks can cause anything from a slight discomfort, to severe burns to heart failure and our safety section explains how they can be best avoided.
Electric shock can be caused by any of the following:
- Faulty appliances
- Damaged cords or extension leads
- An electrical appliance coming in contact with water
- Faulty household wiring
If someone has been shocked:
- They may be unconscious, have a weak pulse, have difficulty in breathing or not breathing at all and may have signs of burns.
- The human body conducts electricity so the electric current may still be running through them so do not touch them as you are likely to be shocked too.
- Turn off the main power to the house to prevent any further damage.
- Call the emergency services and notify them that is an electrical accident.
- When the person is no longer in contact with the electricity source and there is no danger of the current being transmitted then breathing and pulse can be checked and emergency first aid can be administered. Start resuscitating the victim if necessary. If you are unsure of the procedure, the ambulance caller can take you through this over the phone – resuscitation as soon as possible with increase the victim’s survival chances.
- If the patient is breathing, then talk reassuringly to then until the ambulance arrives. Try not to move them and attend the any other injuries if possible.
- Cover any burns and blisters with dressings that won’t stick but never use any ointments or oils onto burns.
Checking your Trip Switch
Modern electric circuits are fitted with a circuit breaker fuse system. If a fault develops, a switch is tripped. If you have a trip switch, it will be on or near your fusebox, your fusebox will always be near to your electricity meter. You should always locate your trip switch and fuse box when you first move into a property – before an emergency occurs. Your trip switch should have a ‘push to test’ or a ‘reset’ button.
Switches can trip for a number of reasons:
- An over loaded circuit – too many electrical appliances used at once
- A faulty appliance
- Over filled kettle
- Faulty connections on appliance leads.
- Faulty immersion heater
If a switch has tripped because of one of these reasons, you should flick it back on and then re plug items one by one. If the switch trips again, you will know that that particular item is faulty.
If a switch is on, then turn it off and back on – the mechanism can trip inside the box but not move the actual switch. If this does not restore the supply then push the ‘push to test’ button. If the switch now trips it means you have a problem with your wiring or perhaps a faulty appliance as the this button can only trip the switch if you have a good electricity supply. The switch will now be in the off position. This is a problem within your home, so do not call your supplier. You will need to call a qualified electrician to come out and fix the problem.
If the switch is on and the ‘push to test’ button doesn’t trip the switch, this means that there is no incoming electricity supply so you will need to call your suppliers emergency line.
If when you go to the box, a trip switch is off, then you should flick it back on. If it stays on but you still have no electricity, then make sure you have not switched off the main fuse box switch. If the switch trips straight away then it means you have a problem with your wiring – you should call out a qualified electrician to look into this.
If the fuse box and trip switch are separate then turn off the fuse box and turn the trip switch back on – it should stay on. If it flicks to off again then there is a fault with the fuse box or trip switch itself.
The first thing you should do in the event of a power cut is check your trip switch, wiring and appliances. If it seems that there is no fault here then you should call your suppliers emergency number.
Before you call, check whether your neighbours or the rest of the street has lost power also as your supplier will usually ask this. Your supplier will take some standard name and address details from you, ask what time your electricity went off and may ask you to check your trip switch and your meter.
If the supplier is aware of the loss of power in the area and are dealing with it, then you may receive a recorded message when calling, giving you the relevant information. If you have any particular information about why the loss of power occurred you should let them know so the supply can be restored as soon as possible.
If there is a planned interruption to your electricity supply you should have been previously informed by your supplier. Planned supply interruptions may rarely occur and your electricity company and National Grid have certain agreements in place as to informing you with enough notice and restoring supply as soon as possible. If these promises are not kept to, you may be entitled to compensation.
What to do during a Power Cut
- Always have candles or a torch in the house to use as emergency lighting, ensure candles are lit safely and never left unattended.
- Try and stay in one room and wrap up warm.
- Leave a light switch turned on so you know when the power has been restored.
- Unplug electrical appliances and keep use of fridges and freezers to a minimum. Check that food has not thawed when power is restored.