Now people are returning to work in offices as the coronavirus pandemic is brought under control the risk of a serious fire in these buildings is on the rise.
London Fire Brigade attends on average 24 fires each week started by batteries, chargers or cables – and these can be exceptionally difficult fires to douse due to the extreme heat they generate.
There have been several cases worldwide of laptops or battery chargers catching fire and exploding, including cases where they have caused severe fire damage in offices.
Insurance giant Allianz states: “Lithium-ion battery fires shouldn’t be treated like common fires as the burn characteristics and toxic by-products released are different than fires involving other materials. The level of risk should be determined through proper assessment and businesses should create emergency response procedures based on sound response and battery handling data.
“Companies that possess lithium-ion batteries in high quantities should work with experts to develop training that seeks to mitigate the fire issues and ensures additional layers of safety. Training might address issues like battery awareness or include more detailed situational training such as battery fire behaviour and emergency response procedures.”
Some facility management companies are now making sure they are fully prepared for these fires by equipping their offices with pioneering battery fire containment bags used on aircraft.
The AvSax battery fire mitigation bag – sometimes known as burn bags - has been specifically designed to deal with overheating or burning personal electronic devices (PEDs) such as mobile phones, tablets, laptops, e-cigarettes and even mobile phones.
The AvSax are so well trusted bv the airline industry they are the world’s best-selling aircraft fire containment bags by far and are now on more than 15,373 aircraft operated by 80 airline companies. They are vital – imagine a laptop on fire emitting toxic smoke in the confined space of an aircraft cabin at 30,000ft.
London Fire Brigade (LFB) – along with fire and rescue services in the UK and worldwide – have serious concerns about lithium-ion batteries and the potential fire hazard they pose in homes and businesses.
LFB states: “Batteries can present a fire risk when over-charged, short-circuited, submerged in water or if they are damaged. Counterfeit electrical chargers can be deadly – many fail to meet UK safety regulations leading to fires and injury. What may seem like a bargain at the market isn’t worth the risk when you consider that it could cost a family member’s life.”
LFB also stress that you should never leave your mobile phone or laptop on charge overnight as it means they will still be trying to charge after the battery is fully powered up.
Many office workers don’t realise lithium-ion batteries can be such a potential hazard, especially in high rise buildings. Fires caused by lithium-ion batteries burn at horrifically high temperatures and even though people think they have doused them, they can flare up again and spread quickly.
This is known as thermal runaway and happens when one cell in a battery overheats it can produce enough heat – up to 900°C (1652°F) – to cause adjacent cells to overheat. This can cause a lithium battery fire to flare repeatedly, even to the point of flames shooting out of the side. The fires can be very unpredictable. Even after the fire in the device seems to be out, there may be damage to a battery cell that can cause the fire to re-ignite and they can flare up again even 10 minutes later.
This is solved by putting the overheating or burned electronic device into an AvSax battery fire containment bag.
EDS managing director Richard Bailey said: “We are getting an increasing number of inquiries from businesses – including facilities management companies - wanting to use AvSax in their offices.
“On a typical working day there must be thousands of lithium-ion batteries in offices and many will be powered by batteries or chargers bought on the internet that don’t meet British safety standards. It’s becoming an increasing problem and now that people are starting to return to their offices since the pandemic forced many to work at home, the risk of a serious fire is growing again.
“Once a personal electronic device powered by a burning lithium-ion battery is in the AvSax the danger has gone. Even if the worst happens and it explodes, it will be fully contained within the bag.”
Over the years several manufacturers such as Sony and Samsung have recalled millions of batteries because of potential explosions caused by manufacturing defects.
AvSax won the prestigious Queen’s Award for Enterprise in the UK in 2018 and were designed by Environmental Defence Services Ltd based in Yorkshire, UK.
For more information contact AvSax via www.avsax.com or phone 01484 641009.