They may be small, but they can cause big problems. That’s why fire officials across the state are sounding the alarm, trying to raise awareness of the fire risk posed by lithium-ion batteries.
“Lithium-ion batteries are in everything that we use nowadays,” West Albany Fire Department Deputy Chief Vick Graves said.
Everything from handheld power tools to hoverboards, a popular gadget among youth.
“Different grade market batteries, different issues with charges can cause these batteries to fail,” Graves said. “And when they do fail, it can be a pretty vigorous reaction.”
Graves said last week, he and his crew responded to a structure fire. The cause was a lithium-ion battery failure inside a hoverboard.
“My department here, we’ve only had a few,” he said. “But in different parts of the state, you’re probably having one at least once a week.”
In New York City this year so far, lithium-ion batteries have been involved in 66 fires, five fatalities and more than 50 injuries, but it’s harder to identify the numbers upstate and beyond.
“Our reporting forms don’t have a check box for lithium-ion batteries,” Graves explained. “So I believe there are quite a few more incidents that are occurring.”
The response to the fires requires unique training provided by the state’s Office of Fire Prevention and Control.
Graves believes this, unfortunately, will become more of a common occurrence as our reliance on the batteries expand.
“I’m sure down the road there will be technology that is, hopefully, safer and effective on what they’re looking to do with it,” he said.
Fire officials don’t want to scare people out of using items that utilize lithium-ion batteries, but certainly want them to be mindful of the fire risk when and if they do use them.
Some ways to mitigate the risks of these batteries failing include:
- Try using OEM or batteries and chargers from the original equipment manufacturer
- Follow the manufacturers’ recommendations on charging and storing
- Avoid charging these batteries charging unattended
- Try not to keep these batteries near the exit of your home or bus
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