A Nasty Electrical Shock – 5 Tips to Avoid them ⚡☠️

Simba the puppy
Figure: Don’t be fooled by those angel eyes… he chews everything that moves and even things that don’t move. Witness the wooden kitchen columns!  😇

This is Simba, my daughter Ruby’s reward for smashing her HSC results – over 95%, and that was during lockdown with no teachers and plenty of isolation. I’ve instructed my wife to stop making bets with Ruby. It’s awesome seeing her so happy, they are best buddies. 💓

Ruby and Simba photo
Figure: Look how happy Ruby is with this cute flea bag…

You may recognize his name from the Lion King. A Disney film in which Simba inadvertently lures his father to his death, by blindly blundering into his Uncle Scars’ evil plan… while our Simba wasn’t following a diabolical plan, he did almost get me killed.

Let me tell you what led to this shocking experience, and how to avoid it.

A Big Shock

Simba being a puppy, likes to chew things (everything!). Unfortunately, he thought my laptop cable would be an awesome chew-toy.

I think you can see where this is heading… Yes, I was shocked. Fortunately (unlike Mufasa), I survived to tell the tale.

I was in SSW Brisbane and realized I needed to quickly pack up to make my flight. Not realizing the cable on my laptop had been damaged by puppy teeth, I reached over the table to pull out my laptop plug, and I was shocked with about 230 volts (Australia previously had 240 volts). I clearly felt it go up my arm, and down the right side of my body. Fortunately, I was standing on 1 leg to reach to across the desk, which I think stopped it reaching my heart. If it had, it could have been fatal. I think I was only attached for about half a second, and I was also able to remove my hand… thankfully I didn’t get stuck to the plug.

It was horrible… My whole body went into shock, and I felt unwell for days. I’ve since found out that the reason I felt so ill, is because your blood pressure drops. Your body responds by going into protection mode and constricting (narrowing) your blood vessels in your hands and feet, and you get an intense sense of foreboding.

It’s painful, it makes you feel anxious, and the after-effects can last for days. In some cases, you can receive burns, damage tendons, muscles and/or ligaments, really scary stuff. Luckily, I was relatively unharmed.

Danger - electrocuted by damaged cable
Figure: My damaged cable almost killed me – chuck it out if you see any cable that looks like this!

Can your watch save your life?

I was lucky that a close friend Bridget Walker, a cardiothoracic nurse, jumped on the phone with me and talked me through doing an ECG on my Apple watch. I needed help quickly because I didn’t want to miss my flight.

Did you know that you can do electrocardiogram (ECG) on an Apple Watch? A bloke from the UK called Ed Dente, downloaded the new app to play around with it. Long story short, the watch said that he had an irregular heartbeat. He didn’t believe it at first and assumed it was a glitch, so he tested it on his wife and child, who both came back normal. Every time he re-tested himself he got the same irregular result. Concerned he then went to see a doctor who confirmed his condition. Left untreated it could have killed him. 🤯

Figure: This is the correct app symbol (left), and then you hold your finger on the ‘crown’ (red arrow, right) when taking the ECG

It’s pretty incredible tech, but honestly, it wasn’t that easy to use when you’re feeling a bit panicked. You find the app on your watch, which isn’t easy. The app isn’t very obvious on the home screen, and for future reference, when the app asks you to hold you finger on the ‘crown’, it means the button on the side of the watch…

AFib ECG from Apple watch
Figure: Ed Dentel’s Apple Watch ECG showing his heart was in AFib – an irregular heartbeat
Credit: https://abcnews.go.com/Health/apple-watch-told-46-year-man-irregular-heartbeat/story?id=59726093
Video: Apple Watch Series 4 – How to take an ECG – Apple

You can lose your life

I was a bit ambivalent when I saw dodgy cables, I’ve had iPhone from the beginning, and most of my cables aren’t in great shape. So learn from me:

#1. ⚠️ Don’t use damaged cables! I’d love to know if you were like me, and kept using damaged cables while they worked. This is a no brainer, chuck them.

At work – they should also be tested and tagged every 6 months by a qualified electrician to make sure they’re safe, even if they look ok.

There are a few other reasons you shouldn’t still use them:

  • You’re damaging your devices! Even a frayed cable stops the electricity flowing properly, which can cause power surges that damage your phone
  • It can cause a fire – frayed cables can lead to overheating and this can be a huge fire risk when left unattended or while you’re asleep
  • You’re still at risk of shock – even though it looks safe, the protective layer is broken. There is nothing to stop the electrical current flowing through these wires and you can get a nasty burn or shock
  • You could harm someone else – if you’re not the only one home, someone you love might touch it and be zapped
  • You could lose your life.
iPhone Charger Cable broken
Figure: Don’t use damaged charger cables

#2. ⚠️ Always use a qualified electrician – they can check things like your Residual current device (RCD) is working properly, which is something installed in your main switch board that should trip out when a current of 30 milliamps is detected. It cuts the power off really quickly, which will save your life! Also, they can check your main earth to make sure that it can carry the current properly to earth.
#3. ⚠️ Keep electrical appliances away from water, including your bathroom
#4. ⚠️ Don’t tightly coil your cables when storing, and make sure they are totally uncoiled when in use. This will help prevent breaks, or stretching the cord as well as overheating
#5. ⚠️ Unplug appliances when not in use – it saves electricity but also reduces the risk of fire

⚠️ Bonus Tip: Always try to use genuine cables. There are a few counterfeit cables floating around, and they are not made for purpose (or to Australian standards) – they have lead to a number of shocks, fires and tech failures!

I hope these 5 tips help you and your loved ones. Cable safety is no joke.

Been zapped? I’d love to hear your experience.