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Carbon dioxide (CO2) is used in fighting electrical fires. It is nonconductive and, therefore, the safest to use in terms of electrical safety. It also offers the least likelihood of damaging equipment. However, if the discharge horn of a CO2 extinguisher is allowed to accidentally touch an energized circuit, the horn may transmit a shock to the person handling the extinguisher.

The very qualities which cause CO2 to be a valuable extinguishing agent also make it dangerous to life. When it replaces oxygen in the air to the extent that combustion cannot be sustained, respiration also cannot be sustained. Exposure of a person to an atmosphere of high concentration of CO2 will cause suffocation.


A person who has stopped breathing is not necessarily dead, but is in immediate danger. Life is dependent upon oxygen, which is breathed into the lungs and then carried by the blood to every body cell. Since body cells cannot store oxygen, and since the blood can hold only a limited amount (and that only for a short time), death will surely result from continued lack of breathing.

However, the heart may continue to beat for some time after breathing has stopped, and the blood may still be circulated to the body cells. Since the blood will, for a short time, contain a small supply of oxygen, the body cells will not die immediately. For a very few minutes, there is some chance that the person's life may be saved.

The process by which a person who has stopped breathing can be saved is called ARTIFICIAL VENTILATION (RESPIRATION).

The purpose of artificial ventilation is to force air out of the lungs and into the lungs, in rhythmic alternation, until natural breathing is reestablished. Artificial ventilation should be given only when natural breathing has stopped; it should NOT be given to any person who is breathing naturally. You should not assume that an individual who is unconscious due to electrical shock has stopped breathing. To tell if someone suffering from an electrical shock is breathing, place your hands on the person's sides, at the level of the lowest ribs. If the victim is breathing, you will usually be able to feel the movement. Remember: DO NOT GIVE ARTIFICIAL VENTILATION TO A PERSON WHO IS BREATHING NATURALLY.

Records show that seven out of ten victims of electric shock were revived when artificial respiration was started in less than 3 minutes. After 3 minutes, the chances of revival decrease rapidly.

Once it has been determined that breathing has stopped, the person nearest the victim should start the artificial ventilation without delay and send others for assistance and medical aid. The only logical, permissible delay
is that required to free the victim from contact with the electricity in the quickest, safest way. This step, while it must be taken quickly, must be done with great care; otherwise, there may be two victims instead of one. In the case of portable electric tools, lights, appliances, equipment, or portable outlet extensions, this should be done by turning off the supply switch or by removing the plug from its receptacle. If the switch or receptacle cannot be quickly located, the suspected electrical device may be pulled free of the victim. Other persons arriving on the scene must be clearly warned not to touch the suspected equipment until it is deenergized. Aid should be enlisted to unplug the device as soon as possible. The injured person should be pulled free of contact with stationary equipment (such as a bus bar) if the equipment cannot be quickly deenergized, or if considerations of military operation or unit survival prevent immediate shutdown of the circuits.

This can be done quickly and safely by carefully applying the following procedures:

Protect yourself with dry insulating material.
Use a dry board, belt, clothing, or other available nonconductive material to free the victim from electrical contact. DO NOT TOUCH THE VICTIM UNTIL THE SOURCE OF ELECTRICITY HAS BEEN REMOVED.

Once the victim has been removed from the electrical source, it should be determined, if the person is breathing. If the person is not breathing, a method of artificial ventilation is used.

Sometimes victims of electrical shock suffer cardiac arrest (heart stoppage) as well as loss of breathing. Artificial ventilation alone is not enough in cases where the heart has stopped. A technique known as Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) has been developed to provide aid to a person who has stopped breathing and suffered a cardiac arrest. Because you most likely will be working in the field of electricity, the risk of electrical shock is higher than most other Navy occupations. You should, at your earliest opportunity, learn the technique of CPR.

CPR is relatively easy to learn and is taught in courses available from the American Red Cross, some Navy Medical Departments, and in the Standard First Aid Training Course(NAVEDTRA 12081).

Is it considered safe for a person to touch any energized low-voltage conductor with the bare hand?

What should you do if you become aware of a possible malfunction in a piece of electrical equipment?

Who should perform CPR?

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