London Fire Brigade’s Fire Investigation team has seen a significant rise in Lithium-Ion battery fires so far this year. Firefighters in the capital have already attended more than 25 fires involving electric bikes or scooters. Sadly, some of them have been significant incidents resulting in serious injuries.
They are advising people who use electric bikes and scooters to be aware of the risks and particularly the danger of storing them in escape routes at the workplace or at home or in a communal area, such as the hallway in a block of flats. This can stop people being able to escape in the event of a fire. This year alone, there have been more than 120 fires in London which involved items stored in communal areas like halls and corridors.
Station officer Matt Cullen, a fire investigation officer with the London Fire Brigade said: “We have seen that when these batteries and chargers fail, they do so with ferocity which can leave few safe options for escape. These bikes and scooters are often stored and charged in escape routes in homes or communal areas so when a fire does occur, escape routes are blocked which immediately makes an already serious situation much more frightening for those involved.
“People cannot access their front doors if the bike or scooter which has caught fire is in front of them. Even when the bikes or scooters are not located in escape routes or communal areas, the fires are fierce enough that they pose an immediate danger to all occupants. We’re definitely seeing an increase in these types of fires.”
Cullen explained that a good many of the fires which the team is seeing involve e-bike conversion kits, which enable the conversion of a standard push bike into an electric bike - rather than a purpose-built one. The kits provide only the motors and control gear for the conversion, but batteries must be sourced separately.
Lithium-Ion battery safety tips
- Always use the correct charger for the product and buy an official one from a reputable seller.
- Avoid sourcing Lithium-ion batteries on the internet, as these may not meet the correct safety standards.
- Lithium-Ion batteries can get warm during their use - allow them to cool down before attempting to re-charge as they could be more susceptible to failure.
- Batteries should always be charged on hard flat surfaces where heat can dissipate.
- Lithium-Ion batteries can also pose a risk if they have been damaged, so try to ensure they are not getting knocked around while in use or while being carried as spares as this can increase the chance of damage to cells.
- Always unplug a charger once it’s finished charging. Follow manufacturers’ instructions when charging and don’t leave it unattended or while people are asleep.
- Ensure smoke alarms are fitted in areas where e-bikes or e-scooters are being charged and make sure they are tested regularly.
- Never block an escape route with anything, including bikes and scooters. Store them somewhere away from a main through route.
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