A warning on why Lithium Batteries can catch fire


With many products found in the home now being battery operated, we want to highlight the safe use, charging and disposal of batteries.

Lithium batteries are compact, lightweight batteries that hold considerable charge and fare well under constant discharge-recharge conditions. These types of batteries are found everywhere: Mobile phones, cameras, laptop and computers, electronic cigarettes and electric cars. Although accidents are rare, those that do occur may be significant, resulting in a fire or even an explosion.

If a battery is going to catch fire, the likely cause is thermal runaway. This is when a battery experiences an increase in temperature that eventually leads to cell short-circuiting or disintegration that can spark a fire. The temperature can quickly reach 500C (932F), at which point the cell catches fire, or it explodes.

The risk of fire or explosion increases if the battery is exposed to hot conditions or the battery or internal component is compromised. You can lessen the risk of an accident in several ways:

  • Avoid storing at high temperatures: Don't keep batteries in hot vehicles, don't allow a blanket to cover your laptop and don't keep your cell phone in a warm pocket.

  • Keep the battery and device away from sun exposure and store in a cool place at a partial charge.

  • Use the correct manufacturers charger.

  • Do not place phones or electronic cigarettes under pillows or blankets whilst charging.

  • Avoid keeping all your items containing lithium-ion batteries together - although having lithium-ion batteries in close proximity does not increase the risk of a fire, if there is an accident, the other batteries can catch fire and make the situation worse.

  • Avoid overcharging your batteries.

We want to ensure that all batteries are being disposed of appropriately. When crews carry out Safe and Well Visits, we ensure that they do not place batteries from old smoke alarms in the occupier's bin. They should be left with the occupier who should be informed that disposal of batteries should be carried out in accordance with local council guidelines. 

National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) joins the national fight against ‘Zombie Batteries’ in bid to tackle recycling and wastefires.

Mark Andrews, who leads on waste fires for the NFCC, said: "Batteries in household waste and recycling can lead to large-scale and protracted fires. These incidents are often very challenging for fire services to deal with, and can cause significant disruption to communities."

Visit our website for more information on Electrical Safety, including Lithium Batteries.

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