As New York City grapples with fires stemming from lithium-ion batteries, the FDNY is rolling out an educational campaign on best practices for purchasing, using and disposing of the popular battery often found inside electric bikes and scooters.
“Fires caused by lithium-ion batteries have increased dramatically in New York City with deadly consequences,” a video, which was tweeted from the FDNY’s Twitter account Friday morning, begins.
The FDNY has opened 174 investigations into fires related to lithium-ion batteries from Jan. 1 to Oct. 21 this year, the fire department said.
In all of 2021, the fire department investigated a total of 104 lithium-ion battery-related fires, according to the FDNY.
So far this year, there have been 93 injuries and six deaths in fires involving lithium-ion batteries as of Oct. 21, the FDNY said. That’s more than all of last year, when fires involving lithium-ion batteries caused 79 injuries and four deaths.
So what is the FDNY recommending New Yorkers do to be as safe as possible when using a device powered by the lithium-ion batteries?
First, the FDNY says consumers purchasing devices with lithium-ion batteries should make sure the equipment has the Underwriters Laboratories Mark, which shows that the product has been safety tested.
The FDNY recommends always following the manufacturer’s instructions for charging and storage, never charging the battery under a pillow, on a bed or on a couch, and storing the batteries away from anything flammable.
Batteries should be kept out of direct sunlight and at room temperature. Additionally, you should always use the manufacturer’s cord and power adapter made specifically for the device.
Finally, if a battery overheats, emits an odor, changes shape or color, leaks or makes noises, the FDNY says that you should call 911.
When it comes to disposing of lithium-ion batteries, tossing them in the recycling bin and trash at home is strictly prohibited. Instead, the FDNY advises New Yorkers to take them to a battery recycling location or to visit nyc.gov/batteries for other disposal instructions.
In July, the New York City Public Housing Authority said it was considering a new rule that would ban tenants and guests from storing e-bikes inside its 177,000 apartments across the city. The move came after a series of fires that were caused by e-bike batteries.
That potential policy change received pushback from advocates who said it could create challenges for food delivery workers who rely on e-bikes for their jobs and who often store them in their living space.
“At this time, there is no rule in place, and therefore no date for implementation; and there has not been a determination made yet about this proposed new rule while NYCHA works on next steps,” a NYCHA spokesperson said in a statement. “We are continuing our technical research and meeting with experts and stakeholders to determine the best course of action moving forward. The safety of our residents is our priority, and we are working with our partners in the City to provide safe homes to our residents.”
The City Council's Committee on Fire and Emergency Management is set to hold an oversight hearing on Oct. 28 on e-bikes and lithium-ion battery fire safety.