A rise in the use of personal mobility devices (PMDs)– such as electric scooters–has also led to a rise in the number of fires caused by such devices.
A similar incident took place in Singapore over the weekend, where a PMD exploded in a children’s bedroom of a Bukit Batok flat.
On the said day, a 29-year-old mum–who has requested to be known as Ms Ainn– was in the living room watching TV with her parents and two kids, when she heard a blast from her children’s room. Soon after the explosion, she saw thick smoke and fire coming from their bedroom.
According to a report on the New Paper, Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) said it was alerted to a fire at Block 464A Bukit Batok West Avenue 8 on Saturday (June 20) at 5.46 pm.
Here’s how this happened.
Family Flees From Flat After PMD Explodes
The fire, which involved a battery unit of PMD in the bedroom of the flat, was extinguished by the occupants before SCDF’s arrival. Two adults and two kids were reported to have self-evacuated from the unit before SCDF’s arrival. One person from the unit who was taken to Ng Teng Fong General Hospital.
Ms Ainn shared that she had fled to her neighbour’s flat with her mother and children and asked her neighbours to call SCDF, while her father extinguished the fire using a hose from the bathroom. They managed to put out most of the fire before the SCDF arrived.
The situation turned chaotic when her two children–aged three and five–began crying and went in shock. Her mother had to be rushed to the hospital after she felt dizzy from the smoke.
Thankfully, the damage was not too much as the fire was contained within her kid’s bedroom. For now, Ainn and her family will be staying in the same flat.
Ms Ainn added that prior to the fire, her father had been using the PMD to get to work daily, despite her repeated reminders for him not to use it. “There has been an increasing number of fires involving PMDs these days, so I was worried about such an incident happening to us.” She further added that her father doesn’t plan on using a PMD again.
Such incidents can be averted if people follow the PMD fire safety tips properly as listed by SCDF.
PMD Fire Safety Tips: What Singaporean Families Must Know
Image courtesy: SCDF
1. UL2272 fire safety certification
In 2019, there were more electric fires in the first seven months than the whole of 2018. Authorities found that many motorised PMDs used in Singapore do not conform to any reliable safety standards.
To prevent PMD-related fires, SCDF therefore, advised the public to use and purchase PMDs certified with the UL2272 fire safety certification.
According to the Land Transport Authority (LTA), getting a UL2272 certification requires the PMD to pass a series of electrical, mechanical and environmental tests.
For a UL2272 certification, your PMD will need a certification mark, samples of which can be seen on LTA’s website.
- A UL2272 certification means the device automatically cuts off battery charging once the battery is fully charged. This prevents overcharging that can cause the battery to overheat and lead to an electric fire.
2. Check batteries for any damage
Image courtesy: SCDF Facebook
According to SCDF, before you attempt to charge your PMD, make sure to check the batteries for any damage or deformities such as bloated or corroded batteries or powdery residue.
Such deformities indicate a damaged battery that can lead to overheating and fires. Electric fires can occur when batteries are faulty and/or become bloated, explode or overheat.
3. Charging Care
Remember that electrical devices build up heat when they are charged and PMDs are no exception. Excessive heat can increase the risk of damage to your device in addition to running the risk of fire. So, it is important to see that your PMD can dissipate heat effectively while charging. To ensure this, you can follow these measures:
- Charge the PMD in a cool room or shaded area away from heat sources
- Do not place a PMD near combustible materials
- Place the PMD on hard, open and flat surfaces. This is so that the area does not get too hot or burn the surrounding.
- Do not cover the PMD with fabric
- Don’t charge the batteries immediately after riding the PMD. They get hot when used and need time to cool down after use.
- Never place batteries near an exit in the way of your escape, in the case of a fire.
4. No Overcharging
Some PMD fires start because the batteries are left charging overnight. According to SCDF, “some models of batteries do not come with an automatic power cut-off function.”
So if you use a PMD, follow the manufacturers’ instructions for charging your devices. Not doing so will not only risky as the batteries may burst into the fire, but it is considered negligible and non-claimable by home contents insurance.
5. Store the batteries properly
Make sure to store the PMD battery at room temperature and away from any combustible or flammable materials. They run the risk of catching fire when overheated.
Here are some other tips you shouldn’t ignore
- Use a power adaptor that has the Safety Mark.
- Avoid tampering, modifying or attempting to repair any PMD on your own. Always ask a specialist or manufacturer for help.
- SCDF advises users to tape up the charging terminals of batteries if they are not going to be in use for a long time.
- When purchasing your PMD, trust only reputable sources and brands. Cheaper, no-name brands may compromise safety. And, make sure it has a UL2272 certification.
- When charging the PMD, only use valid adaptors where the current, voltage and wattage ratings are compatible with the device.
PMD Fire Safety Tips: What To Do When A Fire Breaks Out?
Image courtesy: iStock
In the case of PMD fires, SDFC highlights that dry-powder fire extinguishers are the most effective in putting out the blaze in its initial stage. But you can also use water if there is no other option available.
While controlling the blaze, take care of your safety first.
As SDFC adds, “If the fire cannot be extinguished, they are advised to immediately evacuate the unit and shut the door behind them to contain the fire, and call 995 for assistance.”
PMD Fire Safety Tips: What is covered in insurance?
- If you are charging your PMD / PAB / PMA while leaving the battery unattended, home contents insurance doesn’t cover it. Causes of electric fire at condos, landed homes, or HDB is not covered as it is an act of negligence for charging the battery and going to sleep or leaving your home.
- If your neighbour caused a fire due to an e-scooter or PMD battery charging, it is covered as part of the home-content insurance. This is because it was not your fault and will cover for damage caused unintentionally by your neighbour or acts of nature. Note: Home insurers reserve the right to claim damages against the neighbour for causing the fire.
- HDB Fire Insurance scheme however, does not cover your personal belongings. It covers the structure of the HDB and does not cover any assets, contents owned by the homeowners. Therefore, you need to choose a decent home content insurance package to cover personal belongings like electrical appliances, furniture and valuables.
It is important to stay safe and not panic. Follow the PMD fire safety guidelines to avert fires and any untoward accidents.
News source: CNA, The New Paper
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