Are you reading this article on your smartphone, tablet or laptop?  Chances are you are, because most of us own a device with rechargeable lithium-ion batteries. From phones, powerbanks and toys, to appliances electric bikes and scooters.  Rechargeable batteries are all around us, however, not many people know that they can be a real fire hazard, and that there has been a significant rise in fires caused by lithium-ion batteries. This article will help you identify the dangers, and show you how to stay fire safe.

How Lithium-ion batteries can cause fire

Many modern technologies contain one or more lithium-ion cells, which if damaged make it susceptible to catching fire and even exploding if they begin to overheat. According to Fire NSW these are the common causes that can lead to lithium-ion batteries catching fire:

  • Overcharging or use of non-compliant charging equipment
  • Overheating or exposure to water damage
  • Damage such as dropping, crushing, or piercing
  • Manufacturing defects

When lithium-ion batteries fail it can cause the battery cells to burst and release toxic, flammable and explosive gases, and an intense, self-sustaining fire that can be difficult to extinguish.

How can I prevent my device or batteries from catching fire?

There are steps you can take to stay fire safe when using lithium-ion batteries.

  • Only purchase products from reliable manufacturers, and only use high quality chargers that meet Australian standards.
  • Do not store batteries in near heat sources – this includes leaving phones or other devices in hot cars, next to heaters or stoves.
  • Don’t charge batteries or devices on combustible surfaces such as beds, sofas or carpet, and keep them away from flammable materials such as blankets, clothing, and paper.
  • Avoid overcharging, this can impact battery quality.
  • Don’t use devices that show signs of battery damage such as being cracked, dented, punctured, or crushed.

For added safety, Fire NSW recommends that a smoke alarm is installed in areas where devices are often charged such as home offices and bedrooms. We recommend having a licensed professional install and interconnect mains-powered smoke alarms where possible for enhanced fire protection.

How to identify a fire hazard with your battery or device

There are a number of warning signs you should look out for in a battery or rechargeable device.

This includes:

  • If the device or battery starts to omit strong odours
  • Popping, hissing or crackling sounds coming from the battery
  • Smoke or fumes coming from the device
  • Leaking electrolyte
  • Discolouration, blistering and swelling of the case
  • Heating up and feeling extremely hot to touch

If your device shows any signs of damage, you need to dispose of it responsibly.  Never throw rechargeable batteries in your rubbish or recycling bin at home.  Instead, dispose of your batteries at separate hazardous household waste collection points.

Steps to take if a device or battery starts to smoke or catches on fire

Evacuate the area and if safe, close doors to slow the spread of fire and smoke. Ensure no one goes back inside the building for any reason. The battery gases and smoke are highly toxic and flammable and must not be inhaled.  Call Triple Zero (000) and wait in a safe location for firefighters to arrive.

If a small battery or device such as a phone or tablet starts overheating, unplug it from the power point if its charging. If possible, carefully take it outside away from any combustible material and away from windows or doorways.

Small flames can be extinguished with water to stop the fire spreading, but make sure the device is not plugged in to mains power or near other powered equipment.

If your trained to use a nearby fire blanket or a fire extinguisher (dry chemical powder or carbon dioxide), only attempt to use them from a safe distance away from any smoke or vapours. These may help prevent the spread of fire but are not likely to fully extinguish a lithium-ion battery fire.

Call Triple Zero (000) even if you no longer see visible smoke or flames. There is a good chance that the battery might reignite if it hasn’t fully cooled down.

Are you looking for trusted fire safety advice? Talk to us.  At Global Fire we can help you with any fire safety concerns you have for your property. For a wide range of fire protection and safety solutions, call us now on 1300 88 70 18 or email