New York City Fire Commissioner Laura Kavanagh has called upon the Consumer Product Safety Commission to take action and help prevent what it calls “sub-standard” lithium-ion batteries from entering the US. Kavanagh made the appeal to the public safety office after NYC experienced hundreds of e-bike and e-scooter battery fires – six of which resulted in fatalities – last year.
New York City officials take the threat posed by low-quality e-bikes seriously, and the list of citizens at risk includes delivery people on e-bikes, those who use battery-powered devices in their homes, and the firefighters who have to respond to these electrical fires themselves. One incident in 2022 even led to firefighters having to use ropes hanging from the 20th floor of a building to save people trapped by a blaze, with NBC News piling on
, reporting that the increasing use of lithium-ion batteries is presenting new challenges to firefighters across the US, as the failing batteries can spark a fast-spreading fire that is challenging to put out with conventional firefighting methods.
Ofodike Ezekoye, a fire scientist and a professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Texas, Austin, the source of the flames in a li-ion battery fire is typically contained inside a cell that’s designed to be waterproof, making it challenging for firefighters to control the fire.
The number of lithium battery fires across the US has increased significantly, and firefighters and other experts say the training required to fight them effectively is lacking in many places. Officials are also urging manufacturers to redesign batteries so that the resulting fires can be extinguished more easily. Meanwhile, the Portable Rechargeable Battery Association
, an industry trade group, is collaborating with emergency response governmental agencies and industry organizations to increase awareness about the risks posed by lithium-ion batteries during handling, storage, and transportation. The group is open to working with interested parties to prevent battery incidents, increase consumer safety, and develop a consistent message on the correct lithium-ion battery emergency response and safety procedures.
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