Railway companies are growing increasingly worried about the danger of fires caused by overheating lithium-ion batteries brought on board trains by passengers.
Every train – both overground and underground - will have hundreds of devices ranging from mobile phones and laptops to e-cigarettes and tablets with each one powered by batteries which can potentially burst into flames.
Several aircraft companies are so concerned about the danger of lithium batteries in air travel many now carry AvSax battery fire mitigation bags on board to deal with the danger. If a battery catches fire in the enclosed space of a passenger cabin at 30,000ft, the consequences could be catastrophic.
Trains go through confined spaces such as tunnels, don't have open windows and can take a long time to stop - up to a mile - so there will be a need for staff to act quickly if a lithium-ion battery catches fire. This can be caused if people use inferior chargers or the battery becomes worn or damaged.
Once batteries overheat they can quickly go into what’s known as thermal runaway, a rapid, uncontrolled chemical reaction within the battery that causes the internal temperature to rise.
When one cell in a battery overheats it can produce enough heat - up to 900°C (1652°F) - to make adjacent cells overheat too. This can cause a lithium battery fire to flare repeatedly which is why AvSax fire and smoke mitigation bags are needed.
AvSax managing director Richard Bailey said: “We are getting inquiries in from railway companies all over the world, especially in Europe. The number of lithium-ion batteries used worldwide is growing all the time and so are the concerns.
“Incidents involving lithium-ion batteries are happening all the time but are rarely reported in the media.”
Homes have been destroyed by fires sparked by electronic devices overheating while on charge.
In the USA alone, the Federal Aviation Administration reports that up to June 30, 2021, there have been 322 thermal incidents involving lithium batteries as air cargo or baggage recorded since January 23, 2006. Many of the batteries were in personal electronic devices (PEDS) such as mobile phones, laptops and even e-cigarettes.
AvSax are the world’s best-selling fire containment bag for PEDs on aircraft and are now on more than 15,373 aircraft operated by 80 airline companies. They have been used 33 times to deal with emergencies since the start of 2017 and every time they have been deployed the aircraft has been able to complete its journey safely with no need to divert or make an emergency landing.
AvSax won the prestigious Queen’s Award for Enterprise in the UK in 2018.
The Federal Aviation Administration’s document called Procedures for Fighting In-Flight Fires Associated With Portable Electronic Devices and Lithium Batteries When Using Commercially Marketed Containment Products states: “The risks and safety concerns of lithium-ion batteries in aircraft are well documented.”
It then lays out detailed guidance on how airlines should deal with such emergencies – and typical scenarios are mobile phones or laptops catching fire due to faulty lithium-ion batteries inside them.
The FAA notice states: “Once the fire is extinguished, containment devices can be used to secure the personal electronic device provided it has been adequately cooled to allow transfer to the containment device.
“Keeping an unstable device cool is critical. In order to do so, any such containment device should be capable of holding liquid so that the device can be submerged during storage.”
AvSax fire containment bags manufactured by Environmental Defence Systems Ltd based in Yorkshire, England, do just that.
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