Lithium-ion batteries power countless modern electronic devices throughout our homes and workplaces. With proper use and care, these batteries are safe, but if they overheat or incur damage, they can cause a fire. Lithium-ion battery fires continue to arise and have become a pervasive problem across the country, especially in New York City. According to the FDNY, in 2023 alone, 243 fires have been caused by lithium-ion batteries, leading to 124 injuries and 17 deaths. These batteries are everywhere- from cellphones to laptops, e-bikes, electric scooters, and electric vehicles, so it is imperative for the public to learn how to handle these batteries properly during their entire lifecycle.
Some major cities throughout the globe, including London and Madrid, have banned electric scooters on public transportation because of the fire risk they pose. A lithium-ion battery fire ignited by a portable charger occurred on a recent flight originating at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) in November 2023, prior to takeoff. Regulation of the batteries, support for first responders, and public education will be imperative to keep the incidence of fires low. Thermal runaway from these fires can be a catastrophic issue for all audiences, so widespread education is imperative. When a lithium-ion battery goes into thermal runaway, the fire can become uncontrollable and self-heating, making it difficult to extinguish.
The Electrical Safety Foundation (ESFI) is launching its 2023 holiday safety campaign in conjunction with the Fire Safety Research Institute (FSRI) to educate consumers on how they can take charge of battery safety by making safe choices when purchasing or receiving lithium-ion battery-powered devices. ESFI’s campaign will provide information on how to avoid injuries and fires caused by lithium-ion batteries.
With the endless number of retailers in the market, selecting what lithium-ion battery-powered devices to purchase can be difficult. When researching what to buy, choose a trusted retailer who stands behind their products. Select a product with a warranty that was certified by a Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratory- they protect consumers against unsafe products. If you require a replacement battery, purchase one from a reputable retailer. Dispose of old batteries responsibly at recycling centers.
Before using or charging the device, thoroughly read the owner’s manual for the manufacturer’s guidance and information. When charging the device,