Firefighters in the Canadian city of Calgary issued a cautionary notice to increase awareness of the dangers posed by lithium-ion (LiOn) batteries if improperly used or incorrectly disposed of.
Calgary fire chief Steve Dongworth released the notice on Saturday, December 10th, as lithium battery-related fires increased by around 150% over the past several months.
Most battery-related incidents reported to the Calgary Fire Department (CFD) arose from the improper charging, handling, and disposal of LiOn batteries. While these items are factory-tested and vetted for safety before being released for sale, they can eventually overheat, explode, and catch fire through improper use and handling.
To address this issue, the CFD released a list of safety precautions regarding the use and disposal of LiOn batteries.
What Should Calgarians Do?
In general, the CFD advised locals to store and charge any LiOn battery-powered devices using the instructions that came with the items, as these are the ones mandated by product manufacturers.
Likewise, residents were advised to look out for a number of red flags in their LiOn-powered products. These include manufacturing defects, design flaws, poorly-made items as in the case of counterfeited products, and defective charging equipment.
In addition, the CFD also gave additional precautions about the safety of LiOn batteries. The public has been advised to ensure that any new LiOn-powered devices they buy have undergone and passed qualified lab testing. Devices should only be used with the correct battery size and made recommended by the manufacturer. In addition, any damage to a device should be looked into by a qualified service technician.
Likewise, devices should only be charged in a well-ventilated area and away from any entryways so as not to impede escape in the event of a fire; and items should be kept away from direct sunlight or other heat sources.
Are LiOn Batteries Truly Safe?
As previously stated, most LiOn batteries that come with products from authentic manufacturers have been vetted for safety before the sale. Also, these items were made with specific features to ensure their safety with proper use.
For the most part, many current-generation devices have batteries with built-in pressure-sensitive vent holes to keep them from overheating and exploding if exposed to a great deal of pressure.
Many lithium batteries also use a polyolefin separator as a fuse. This chemically stable material melts when the battery hits a critical heat level – 130°C (266°F) in most devices – and shuts down the cell to keep it from blowing up.