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Battery blazes on the rise

October 21, 2021

Leading insurer AMI calls on Kiwis to take extra care while charging their devices and gadgets.

AMI is reporting at least one home insurance claim a month for fire damage caused by lithium-ion batteries and their charging systems.

AMI’s claims data suggests these types of household fires are not only growing in frequency but are more likely to cause severe damage compared to other types of fires – with many resulting in the loss of an entire home.

AMI’s Executive General Manager Claims, Dean MacGregor, says, while we’re always here for our customers when things go wrong, it’s devastating to see cases where battery powered devices have led to fires that can have terrible consequences for customers.   

“By raising awareness of this emerging trend, we want to remind Kiwis why it is so important to treat lithium-ion battery equipment with extra care, to protect themselves and their families from the increased fire risk.”

In recent years, Kiwis have fallen in love with battery powered devices, with gadgets like e-scooters, e-tools, tablets, and drones becoming must have items for many households.

But, as the number of these devices increase – so does the risk of something going wrong with a lithium-ion battery or it’s charging system, which, like all electrical devices, have the potential to overheat, and spark a devastating fire.

Mr MacGregor says the gadgets that are causing to these fires are becoming increasingly diverse.

“Some of the recent claims we’ve received include a model helicopter that caught fire while on charge, an e-tool left to charge in a garage overnight which ignited and destroyed an entire home, and multiple cases of phones and laptops catching fire after being left to charge on a bed.”

“Of particular concern are the number of cases where the fire is not noticed until it was well established – either because it started in the garage and was too far away to trigger a smoke alarm, or simply because fires from lithium-ion batteries are particularly intense and grow very fast.

“Given what we are seeing, we need Kiwis who are embracing the electric revolution to remain extra vigilant when it comes to the safe handling and charging of these devices.

“This means always following the device manufacturer’s safety guidelines, as well as advice from Fire and Emergency New Zealand. Ensure there are functioning smoke alarms in areas of the home where these gadgets are being charged and stored, including garages, outdoor studios and hobby rooms.”

Lithium-ion battery safety tips from Fire and Emergency New Zealand:

·         Do not charge a device under a pillow, on the bed or on a couch – they can overheat and cause a fire

·         Don’t use or charge a battery that shows signs of swelling, overheating or damage

·         Only use the battery that is designed for the device

·         Only use the charging equipment that came with the device, and don’t use it if it’s damaged

·         Do not leave batteries or devices in direct sunlight or in hot vehicles

·         Store batteries away from anything that can catch fire

 

If you have concerns

·         If your device or battery is very hot, smoking or catches fire while charging, turn off the power if this can be done safely

·         Move the device away from anything that can catch fire

·         If you are in any immediate danger, get out and call 111 – see What to do in a house fire

 

Battery disposal

·         Do not put lithium-ion batteries in the rubbish

·         Recycling is always the best option – contact your local council for a recycling location

·         Do not leave discarded batteries stored in piles, keep them separated until you can arrange for recycling

"Its important to treat lithium-ion battery equipment with care to protect against increased fire risk.