Today we have a guest blog piece by Alicia White from Action and Emergency. Action & Emergency provide nationally recognised First Aid Training and CPR refresher courses. They offer on-site training to organisations and workplaces, as well as public courses at a training centre situated in Runaway Bay. We have asked Alicia some questions that will help you to know what to do in an emergency situation related to electricity. As we have said in many of our blog pieces, electricity can be a wonderful thing that can make our day to day life easier. However it is absolutely essential that electricity is respected and that you do not ever attempt your own electrical repairs. Check out our most recent blog post for tips about staying safe around electricity and please contact us if you need repairs or maintenance carried out.
Thank you Alicia…
If someone receives an electrical burn, what can we do to treat it?
As with any burn, our initial response would be to:
- IMMEDIATELY cool burn with cool, running water for a minimum of 20 minutes
- If possible, remove all rings, watches, jewellery or other constricting items from the affected area without causing further tissue damage
- Remove non-adherent clothing if possible
- Cover the burn with a loose and light non stick dressing (I highly recommend Burn Aid dressings)
- Where feasible, elevate burns to minimise swelling
- Treat for shock and maintain body temperature
Cool the burn, not the patient! Blood vessels to the wounded area dilate (open up) and release heat to the surrounding environment, which is why the wound may appear red and hot to touch. As a result, the casualties core body temperature may start to drop. If you put the whole body of the casualty under a cool shower, their core temperature may continue to drop even further, potentially resulting in hypothermia. So only place the burnt area under cool running water.
Ideally, we remove any jewellery or clothing that is not stuck to the skin. As the damaged tissue attempts to repair itself, cells rush to the area to clean up the damaged tissue and remove any waste products... this is why we get swelling. Things like rings and clothing can tighten around the limb as the area starts to swell, and in-turn can block off blood flow, resulting in death of the limb. If an an area of clothing is stuck to the skin, leave it in place. It needs to be surgically removed.
An important thing to remember is that our body relies on electrical impulses to function. Our nerves deliver messages from the brain to our muscles, telling them when to contract. So when electricity travels through the body in the case of an electric shock, it typically uses those nervous pathways as the most efficient route to earth itself. Typically all you would see is an entry wound and an exit wound. But it is the path of destruction that we cannot see that is a major cause for concern, as it burns everything on the way through.
What is a dysrhythmia?
Our heart also relies on electrical impulses to prompt it to beat in a regular fashion. Electricity can interrupt the heart’s normal pattern and knock it into an abnormal rhythm. These dysrhythmias (dys = bad, rhythmia = rhythm) can be fatal to a casualty because if the heart isn't beating effectively, then blood pressure will drop and vital organs won't receive enough oxygen to survive. If a casualty falls unconscious and is not breathing, immediately commence CPR and locate your nearest Automated External Defibrillator (AED).
CPR moves blood around the body and maintains oxygen supply to vital organs. Simply put, it buys us time. CPR alone is not enough to promote return of spontaneous circulation. In order to make the heart beat again we need to "rejig" the electrical impulses, until we get a rhythm that works. An AED introduces an electrical current to the heart and momentarily stops it, in the hope that when it restarts, it fires in a beautiful, functional rhythm. I like to think of it as a therapeutic slap to the heart.
Do I call 000 from a mobile phone?
Yes in Australia we call 000, but if you are from the U.S. or Britain you can still call 911 or 999 and it will automatically divert to 000 for you.
If you don't have reception on your mobile there is an alternative number you can call and that is 112. Basically it will bounce off the closest available network to call 000 for you. This number can be used anywhere in the world from your mobile.
Should I go to hospital if I experience an electrical shock?
Anyone who has received an electric shock should make their way to an emergency department for heart monitoring, regardless of how brief the symptoms. An ECG is a quick and easy assessment. Well worth it for that piece of mind if nothing else.
Should all members of the community do a CPR course?
CPR is not mandatory for anyone, unless your employer requires you to obtain the certification to gain employment. Different workplaces have different requirements. If you work in a high risk field, then there may be a greater need for more first aid qualified workers.
I believe everyone should experience the training and maintain their skills. The reality is that at any moment one of our loved ones, friends or colleagues could be seriously ill or injured. Paramedics can only drive so fast. Those first few moments could be the difference between life and death. Wouldn't you rather help make a difference than stand there panicking?
How often should we refresh our certificates?
CPR is refreshed annually, and First Aid should be refreshed every 3 years.
For a full list of available courses and onsite training follow the link below.
If you would like to contact Alicia with questions or to organise a course, you can contact her on 0400663150, email: firstname.lastname@example.org or you can visit her website https://actionandemergency.com.au