For the past several years, Lithium Batteries have become more common in our everyday lives. Whether it powers your cell phone, I Pad, laptop, scooter, golf cart, E Bikes, or other battery powered interest, rest assured you have purchased a Lithium battery at one time or another.
But more frequently over the years, stories are surfacing concerning the potential fire hazard these batteries could cause if not properly cared for.
In the city of New York as of November 15th, there have been more than 200 fires caused by a lithium battery resulting in six deaths.
In the State of Florida countless residents have suffered major damage to their homes as a result of their battery power golf carts stored in the garage. Hitting close to home recently, an East Meadow firefighter nearly lost his retirement home in Florida as a result of a Lithium battery mishap from a portable car battery charger.
Now even closer to home, the East Meadow Fire Department recently responded to a garage fire caused but a Lithium battery. The resulting damage cost more than $60,000.00.
Now that we have your attention, there are a few things you should know to keep your family safe.
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), while lithium batteries are normally safe, they may cause injury if they have design defects, are made of low quality materials, are assembled incorrectly, the charger is replaced with a non compatible model, are used or recharged improperly, or are damaged.
In February 2018, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s Status Report on High Energy Density Batteries Project reported over 25,000 overheating or fire incidents involving more than 400 types of lithium battery powered consumer products that occurred over a five year period.
On the health side, the vented battery gases, vapor, and smoke are highly toxic and flammable, and must not be inhaled. Higher exposures may cause a build-up of fluid in the lungs (pulmonary edema), a medical emergency, with severe shortness of breath. Keep away from the toxins of this type of fire regardless of how small it may be.
HOW TO REDUCE THE RISK OF A LITHIUM BATTERY FIRE
Ensure lithium batteries, chargers, and associated equipment are tested in accordance with an appropriate test standard (e.g., UL 2054) and, where applicable, certified by a Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratory (NRTL), and are rated for their intended uses.
- Follow manufacturer’s instructions for storage, use, charging, and maintenance.
- When replacing batteries and chargers for an electronic device, ensure they are specifically designed and approved for use with the device and they are purchased from the device’s manufacturer or a manufacturer authorized reseller.
- Remove lithium-powered devices and batteries from the charger once they are fully charged.
- Store lithium batteries and devices in dry, cool locations.
- Avoid damaging lithium batteries and devices.
- Inspect them for signs of damage, such as bulging/cracking, hissing, leaking, rising temperature, and smoking before use, especially if they are wearable.
- Immediately remove a device or battery from service, and place it in an area away from combustible materials if any of these signs are present.
- If batteries are damaged, remove them from service and from your home, place in fire resistant container (e.g., metal drum), and dispose in accordance with local, state, and federal regulations. Contact a local battery recycling center for disposal instructions.
- In the event of a Lithium battery fire, no matter how small, call your East Meadow Fire Department Emergency Line at 516-54-0576. Our firefighters are specially trained to handle these emergencies.
In many cases, fires in Lithium batteries are unpredictable, can accelerate fast and violently igniting any combustible materials, and home furnishings, quickly at remarkable speeds.
We urge you to keep such powered equipment off charge when your home is empty, or you are asleep, and for heaven sake never near your exit way.
Check your smoke and Carbon Monoxide detectors monthly, and change the batteries every October for Fire Prevention week.
Some detectors that are WIFI enabled required a battery replacement every 6 months. Many of them are lithium as well.
On behalf of Chief Peter Stanley Cheswick, his Assistant Chiefs Philip Fertitta, James Walsh, and Michael Wood as well as the officers and members of the East Meadow Fire Department we wish you a happy, healthy, and safe 2023.