How to respond to an electric shock

If this is an emergency, please call 000 immediately.

What is an electric shock?

Even for a mild electric shock, encourage the patient to seek medical aid for assessment of potential effects on the heart.

An electric shock occurs when a person comes into contact with an electrical energy source. Electrical energy flows through a portion of the body causing a shock.

This guide is regularly updated and aligns with the current edition of Australian First Aid (4th edition, 7/2011)

Signs and Symptoms


  • Difficulty in breathing or no breathing at all
  • A weak, erratic pulse or no pulse at all
  • Burns, particularly entry and exit burns
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Cardiac arrest


What to do

Check for danger to yourself, bystanders and the patient.



Switch off power, if possible, before trying to help the patient.


If the patient is in contact with high voltage lines, do not approach, but wait until power is disconnected by authorised electrical personnel.

If power cannot be switched off quickly, remove the patient from the electrical supply without directly touching them. Use a non-conductive, dry material (eg a dry wooden broom handle).

Follow DRSABCD. Call triple zero (000) for an ambulance.


Hold any burnt area under cool running water for 20 minutes.


Remove jewellery and clothing from burnt areas, unless stuck to the burn.


Cover the burnt area with a loose and light nonstick dressing, preferably clean, dry, non-fluffy material such as plastic cling film.

Seek medical aid.



Electric shock fact sheet

DRSABCD poster

Related advice

Sprains and strains

A sprain is an injury to the ligaments and capsule at a joint in the body. A strain is an injury to muscles or tendons.

DRSABCD Action Plan

The St John DRSABCD Action Plan is crucial in assessing whether a patient has any life-threatening conditions and if any immediate first aid is necessary.


If someone faints, it’s important not to sit them on a chair with their head between their knees – direct the patient to lie on their back with knees raised.

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