Lithium-ion batteries: a safety guide
What do electric bikes, cell phones, drills and your kids’ motorized toys have in common? They’re all powered by lithium-ion batteries and if you’re not using them correctly, they could catch fire or explode.
The Mt. Lebanon Fire Department is reminding residents that it’s important to follow safe practices with devices that use lithium-ion batteries.
“Statistically, they’re safe. But when it goes sideways, it’s not a fire that is easily put out,” said fire chief Nick Sohyda.
While Mt. Lebanon thus far has only had one large fire caused by the battery from a lawn mower, there’s a big uptick nationwide in fires started by lithium-ion batteries. You may have seen the large apartment complex fires on the news from New York City where the batteries for e-scooters ignited and exploded. Those were lithium-ion batteries.
The problem has gotten so bad in New York City that Mayor Eric Adams recently enacted legislation to promote safe practices for e-scooters and e-bikes, along with implementing laws that further regulate fire protections for lithium-ion batteries.
Problems often occur when the batteries are damaged or defective, or when a battery or charger is used for another use than its intended purpose. With electric mobility devices, the problem escalates because of the battery size.
Damage to individual cells can cause the battery to go into what’s called “thermal runaway,” said deputy chief Rodger Ricciuti. This can cause a chain reaction and the batteries can begin to overheat in an uncontrolled state.
Sohyda called these fires “challenging” to put out, in that “sometimes when you think they’re extinguished, they’re really not.”
“This doesn’t mean don’t use them. It means, use them right,” said Lt. Kris Siegert.
So, what can you do?
• Do not use batteries that are damaged.
• Only use devices, batteries and charging equipment that with a UL certification.
• Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
• Only use the battery and charger that are designed for the device.
• Only charge one device or battery at a time and charge on a solid, flat surface.
• Keep batteries at room temperatures and store away from anything that can catch fire.
Stop using the battery if you notice an odor, change in color, too much heat, a change in shape, leaking or not keeping its charge. If you experience any of these, move the device out of your house.
If it’s smoking, call 911. The battery can go from smoking to fully engulfed in a short time.
If you see a fire, get out and call 911. Do not try to put it out yourself.
Do not put lithium-ion batteries in the trash. Recycle them. Lithium-ion batteries can be recycled during Mt. Lebanon’s household hazardous waste collection on August 12, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Get details and register by visiting www.mtlebanon.org.
ROCK THE BLOCK! Rock the Block with Public Safety, a block party hosted by our first responders, was so popular last year that we’re bringing it back for another season. Details are still in the works, but you can keep up by checking our public safety social media pages for updates. The Citizens Police Academy will also be returning this September. More details to follow in the upcoming months.
BE ON THE LOOKOUT Home burglaries are on the rise in the South Hills. Mt. Lebanon police are asking you to be cautious and notify police of any suspicious activity. Lock your doors.
LET’S KEEP LEARNING Your kids likely know them from school. Now it’s your turn to learn from Mt. Lebanon Fire Department’s Lt. Kris Siegert and Lt. Josh Sadowy, as they head to Mt. Lebanon High School for a free, one-night continuing education class from 6:30 to 9 p.m. on June 13.
The program, geared toward residents 16 and older, will cover common causes of fire in a home, how to prevent fires, and what to do if there is a fire. The evening will conclude with training on using a fire extinguisher in a controlled environment. Visit www.mtlsd.org/ for more information on how to register.
SPRING IS HERE! And with the weather starting to heat up, walkers are out in full force. If you’re driving or walking, remember to keep your head up and phone down and Look Up, Lebo. If you’re behind the wheel, keep an eye out for pedestrians and yield at crosswalks. Stay alert.