With the rising popularity of alternate sources of transportation, the use of electric, battery powered scooters and bikes is becoming more common across the country and our region. Along with the increasing trend of using these new devices unfortunately comes new dangers. That is the new trend in fires caused by them.
According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, 19 deaths were directly attributed to fires caused by E-scooter or E-Bike batteries failing. In New York City, where the use of E-scooters and E-bikes is among the highest in the United States and the FDNY is one of the only fire departments with the ability to track these types of fires, 208 fires caused by E-scooter and E-bike batteries caused 142 injuries and 6 deaths.
The Adams Area Fire District does not wish to deter the use of these new eco-friendly technologies, but we would rather be proactive in educating our neighbors in the dangers and safe use of these devices as their popularity becomes more widespread; rather than reactive in a response to save your home from damage; or worse, our neighbors from injury or death. We have only responded to 4 lithium-ion battery fires in the past year, but we are preparing for more as these technologies get bigger in our communities.
Damaged or defective batteries can cause a dangerous condition known as “thermal runaway.” This causes the battery to overheat, catch fire, and/or explode. This can be caused by overcharging the battery or leaving a charging battery unattended. Once a battery is charged or if it will be left unattended, please unplug the battery. Another common cause has been using a battery that was not originally intended for the device or charger. These are being bought on-line as “cheaper” alternatives as replacements or “back-ups” to the manufacturer recommended and tested batteries, and are not approved by the manufacturers or regulated by any testing agencies. There is a case in New York where an after-market alternative lithium-ion battery exploded and propelled itself 60 feet, starting 6 separate fires along the way, burning down an apartment building and injuring 4 people.
Signs that you should stop using the E-bike or E-scooter are if you notice any of these problems with the battery: unusual odor, change in color, too much heat, a change in shape, leaking, smoking, or not keeping a charge.
We would like our neighbors to remember the following precautions you can take to prevent a dangerous fire when charging or storing these devices:
• Only purchase and use devices, batteries, and charging equipment that are listed by a nationally recognized testing lab and labeled
• Always follow the instructions from the manufacturer.
• Only use the battery and the charger that were designed for, and came with, the device. In other words, don’t buy the cheaper one or
“knock-off” found on-line for replacement or back-up. These are contributing to a lot of fires!
• Do not keep charging the device or device battery after it is fully charged. This is also a major contributing factor in these fires. Also,
do not leave them charging unattended!
• Only charge one device or device battery at a time to prevent overloading the circuit.
• Keep batteries at room temperature when possible. Do not charge them at temperatures below 32°F (0°C) or above 105°F (40°C).
• Do not store batteries in direct sunlight or inside hot vehicles, and keep them away from children and liquids.
• Store E-bikes, E-scooters, and batteries away from exit doors, stairs and hallways and anything that can catch fire like carpeting or furniture.
• Only have device repairs performed by a qualified professional.
• Do not put lithium-ion batteries in the trash. Recycling is always the best option. Take the batteries to a recycling center or contact
your local waste department for disposal instructions.
Lastly, if you see a fire, leave the building immediately and call 911. Don’t try to fight the fire. We here at the AAFD hope this information will help stop the trend that is happening with these devices from harming you, our friends and neighbors.