Electrical safety basics

Firefighters, police and EMTs are typically first on the scene in an emergency and face the greatest risk from electrical contacts and fires. Understanding the fundamental principles of electrical safety will help you respond to a variety of incidents.

  • Electricity always seeks the easiest path to the ground. It will travel there through conductors, including water, the human body, and metal objects like ladders, poles and fences.
  • Your standard protective gear does not insulate against electric shock, and even a low-voltage electric shock can kill you. To keep yourself safe, you must stay out of electricity’s path:
    • Assume all power lines are energized and potentially dangerous.
    • Be extremely cautious when using water to fight fires near power lines. If you must use water, use only a mist or spray, never a solid water stream.
    • Do not attempt to enter or contact vehicles that may be energized. This is extremely dangerous and can lead to serious injury or death.
    • NEVER cut service wires or remove electrical meters. Instead, turn off power at the main circuit breaker.

The guidance on this website is designed to supplement, not replace, your department’s standard operating procedures (SOPs).