The number of building fires caused by lithium-ion batteries has almost doubled in the last two years, according to the Western Australian Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES).
Last year, WA firefighters responded to 64 structure fires caused by lithium-ion batteries, up from 34 in 2020.
What products use lithium-ion batteries?
Lithium-ion batteries are a critical component of almost all rechargeable appliances and are found in a wide range of everyday products such as mobile phones, laptops, appliances, e-rideables & vehicles and tools.
As renewable energy production becomes an increasing area of focus, lithium batteries are being used in more and more products to offer a renewable energy solution to customers.
Fire-related risks of lithium-ion batteries
Lithium-ion batteries are packed with cells that store a significant amount of energy, therefore if they overheat can cause extremely destructive fires that are very difficult to extinguish.
A small fire caused by a lithium-ion battery can engulf an entire room in two to three minutes, releasing toxic fumes as the battery burns.
Here are some situations that can lead to lithium-ion batteries catching fire:
- Overcharging or using non-compliant charging equipment
- Overheating or exposure to heat or extreme temperatures
- Physical damage (caused by dropping, crushing, piercing, and/or vibrations)
- Short-circuiting, battery cell malfunctions or system faults
- Battery faults or defects
Ways to reduce the risk of a battery fire
There are simple steps that households and businesses can take to reduce the chance of a lithium-ion related battery fire.
Some of these include:
- Storing battery-powered items in a safe, cool and dry place and on a hard surface, away from other flammable items
- Avoid charging batteries on soft surfaces like beds or couches
- Avoiding second-hand battery-operated products that may have been damaged in the past
- Taking batteries off charge when you’re not home or in the office
- Stop using and safely dispose of any items that are showing warning signs of a malfunctioning battery. Visit https://recyclingnearyou.com.au/batteries
You can find more detailed prevention tips on the DFES website.
Other measures you can take to protect yourself and your assets is to ensure your home or business has a working hard-wired smoke alarm/s and a fire escape plan. It is also important to ensure you have the right level of home or business insurance cover, should there be a fire at your premises.
If you would like to discuss the level of insurance cover required for your assets, please contact the Centrewest team today.