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Are you prepared for fire risk of lithium-ion batteries?

Lithium-ion battery fire

Lithium-ion batteries are widely used in a lot of consumer items. This technology is growing in popularity due to its light weight, high energy density, and ability to recharge quickly and with no memory effect. In Australia, lithium-ion batteries are commonly found in rechargeable electrical devices such as: -

•   Cordless power tools
•   Cell phones, laptops and smart devices
•   e-Rideables/LEV 's e.g., electric scooters, electric skateboards, hoverboards etc
•   Electric vehicles (EV's) or Hybrid vehicles
•   Electric Forklifts
•   e-Cigarettes
•   Camping and gardening equipment
•   Cordless appliances
•   Toys
•   Battery Energy Storage Systems (BESS)

Lithium-ion batteries make life easier, but their complex chemical-nature make them dangerous if used, charged or stored incorrectly. Lithium-ion battery related fires and explosions can cause property damage, serious injury and even death. As rechargeable batteries have become more common the number of incidents has increased dramatically.

Lithium-ion fires in Australia
In Australia, more than 450 fires have been linked to lithium-ion batteries over the past 18 months, according to data provided by state fire departments with a significant spike in e-scooter fires. 

•   WA recorded 81 of these incidents 2022
•   NSW recorded 180 lithium-ion battery related fires in the past 12 months
•   VIC recorded 120 in the year to July 2022
•   QLD recorded 72 since 2021

These fires can be triggered by overcharging, overheating or exposure to extreme temperatures, short-circuiting, defective or ageing battery cell. Ensuring that you source your products from a reputable seller/manufacturer is an important step as cheap products carry risk. 

Thermal Runaway
When lithium-ion batteries fail, they can undergo a thermal runaway phenomenon which involves a violent bursting of one or multiple battery cells.  Thermal runaway occurs when a lithium-ion cell enters a state of uncontrolled self-heating. This often begins when the heat generated within a cell exceeds the heat dissipated to its surroundings. This results in the release of toxic, corrosive, flammable, and explosive vapours and gases resulting in an intense fire. The fire is self-sustaining and is especially difficult to extinguish using conventional methods or fire extinguishers.  Pouring water on a lithium fire is often very dangerous and counterproductive.

When you’re carrying many lithium-ion batteries in your workplace, the risks associated with thermal runaway increases. If thermal runaway occurs in a single battery, it will overheat the cell and quickly create a domino effect with the other batteries kept close by. As the battery cells continue to overheat and ignite, the fire will continue to grow in intensity.  To manage this risk, look at storing your Lithium-Ion batteries in a safety storage cabinet. These cabinets are usually fire rated for up to 90 minutes both from internally and externally.

High Temperatures Reached
The rapid thermal energy generation during an internal short circuit is typically the tipping point after which thermal runaway occurs. Internal cell temperatures will continue to rise and can quickly reach 500°C at which point the cell catches fire or it explodes. Lithium-ion batteries can also spontaneously combust when exposed to high thermal temperature. Here is an example of one, Dangerous-power-tool-explodes by Australasian Mine Safety Journal

Gases Produced
What usually looks like ordinary smoke is in actual fact toxic, flammable, and explosive vapours. A lithium-ion battery upon contact with water produces hydrogen gas and lithium-hydroxide. Overexposure to Lithium-hydroxide can cause skin irritation or eye damage. Because lithium reacts with water creating a flammable gas, pouring water on a lithium fire is extremely dangerous. A leaking lithium-ion battery when exposed to air or moisture can even produce hydrofluoric acid, which is highly toxic, and can severely irritate the eyes and lungs.

Steps to safely manage lithium-ion batteries products to minimise the risk:

  • Do not charge them when you're out.
  • Do not charge them while you’re asleep.
  • Do not charge them indoors or around items that are combustible.
  • Do not charge them near your exit path where it is likely to impede your egress out of a building.
  • Do not charge a damaged product.
  • Unplug them once charged.
  • Take care to avoid damaging items i.e., dropping, crushing etc.
  • Do not leave or charge them in hot environment or direct sunlight.
  • Using the certified or original battery chargers.
  • Avoid charging damaged batteries.
  • Avoid thermal stress.

Batteries that show any signs of damage should be disposed of carefully. Never throw them in your regular waste or recycling containers. Fires are known to occur in garbage trucks and in waste facilities due to improper disposal of batteries. Even when dead, they can explode or cause fires when crushed or when exposed to moisture. Research online for local battery recyclers.  Below is an image of garbage bin fire, a result of a disposed cell phone.  

Plastic Bin Fire

Damaged batteries a include:
•   Batteries and/or devices that have been involved in or exposed to fire
•   Overheated batteries that may have been emitting vapours or smoke
•   Batteries that show signs of swelling or bulging, leaking, cracks, dents, punctures, or crushing
•   Batteries that have had water or liquid ingress or have been submerged in water.

What to do if confronted by a Lithium-Ion fire emergency
•   If there is sign of overheating, switch off the charger if it's safe to do so.
•   If there is sign of fire, remove yourself from the area to avoid the risk of fire and toxic vapours from the battery.
•   Raise the fire alarm.
•   Isolate the power supply if safe to do so.
•   Use a suitable fire extinguisher i.e. F-500 EA if available.
•   Other extinguishers may not be effective as the excessive heat from a lithium-ion battery in a
     thermal runaway state could cause reignition.
•   If save to do so, remove combustibles stored nearby.
•   Call triple (000) and request the fire service.

Fire Protection in Budget Accommodation Buildings

Budget Accommodation

Under the Queensland Development Code, all Budget Accommodation Buildings must adhere to the fire safety standards set open them by Queensland Legislation. These types of buildings carry a special risk since they serve as housing to multiple tenants, increasing the risk of someone sustaining injury from fires.

In this blog, we’ll go about the basic requirements owners and operators need to adhere to, in order to deem their property safe and up to code.

What are Budget Accommodation Buildings?

By definition, budget accommodation buildings are properties which provide accommodation to 6 or more tenants sharing a common bathroom or sanitary facility.  From this, we can see how they differ from the usual hotel where each guest can enjoy more independence from each other. And we can deduce that budget accommodation buildings are relatively smaller in area, and have a higher tenant-to-floorspace ratio. Per the Building Act of 1975 and Building and Other Legislation Amendment Bill of 2008, some examples of Budget Accommodation Buildings can include but are not limited to:

  • Boarding Houses
  • Backpacker Accommodation
  • Hostels
  • Guesthouses
  • Share-Houses
  • Bed-and-Breakfasts
  • Farmstays
  • Special Need Care-Facilities

Safety Compliance

In essence, if your budget accommodation building has been built, applied or approved prior to 1st January 1992, the structure must comply with the Building Code of Australia, Building Fire Safety Regulation of 2008 and the Fire and Emergency Services Act of 1990. The Fire Safety Standards in Queensland Development Code Mandatory Part MP 2.1 - Fire Safety In Budget Accommodation. includes the following:

More information regarding Fire Safety In Budget Accommodation Buildings is also available from 

Fire Safety Compliance Assistance and Evaluation

Australian Fire Protection has been in the business of providing fire safety and compliance solutions to a wide range of industries. With more than 30 years of experience under our belt, you can rest assured that we can confidently guide you through the ins and outs of keeping your tenants safe and keeping your property up and beyond safety standards.

Get in touch with us today for a personal consultation.

Why is it important to digitise our floor plans?


In recent years there have been many horrifying incidents that have rocked our society and world abroad prompting investigation by way of coronial inquests which have delivered subsequent recommendations for improvement. 

Some of those that come to mind are the Quakers Hill Nursing Home Fire, the Lindt Café Terrorist incident and internationally the horrific Grenfell Tower Fire which claimed over 70 lives in June 2017.

Each incident shared a common problem, that being the lack of current building floor plans and emergency plans.  In each event, First Responders were without critical information required to run a rescue operation effectively. 

Quakers Hill Coronial Inquest - Recommendations 1 and 2

  1. “That the NSW Government provide funding for the instalment of mobile data terminals in Fire and Rescue NSW vehicles;
  2. That Fire and Rescue NSW develop a digital data base of pre-incident plans for use in major structural fires;”

Lindt Café Recommendation - Item 10 (of 45) Develop Integrated intelligence platform

From the Coroner: “I recommend that the NSWPF investigate the development of an integrated intelligence system that allows selected officers secure access to all information platforms and to record and share operational decisions”

From the Grenfell Inquiry Phase 1 Report dated October 2019

Chapter 33 Recommendations Item 6 Plans 33 .12
“No plans of the internal layout of the building were available to the LFB until the later stages of the fire. However, because each floor of the building above floor 3 was laid out in the same way, the LFB was not unduly hampered in its attempt to fight the fire and rescue occupants by the absence of those plans. In another case, however, the lack of floor plans might easily have far more serious consequences. It should be a simple matter for the owners or managers of high-rise buildings to provide their local fire and rescue services with current versions of such plans. I therefore recommend that the owner and manager of every high-rise residential building be required by law: a. to provide their local fire and rescue services with up-to-date plans in both paper and electronic form of every floor of the building identifying the location of key fire safety systems; b. to ensure that the building contains a premises information box, the contents of which must include a copy of the up-to-date floor plans and information about the nature of any lift intended for use by the fire and rescue services. I also recommend, insofar as it is not already the case, that all fire and rescue services be equipped to receive and store electronic plans and to make them available to incident commanders and control room managers”.

At Australia Fire Protection we are always looking for the best way to support and serve our clients. In our search to align our business with innovative leaders, we partnered with indoor mapping specialist Locatrix, utilising their software PlanStudio to draft and create your high quality, spatially accurate and digital floor plans. 

The state-of-the-art mapping features of PlanStudio is what drew us to partnering with Locatrix as it allowed our Fire Safety Advisors to quickly map and draw up a facility with high accuracy. All data stored is also then available to emergency services for access when they need to, in the case of an emergency.

In addition to floor plans, Locatrix’s PlanSafe product delivers site specific building emergency procedures as a learning outcome, providing another level of safety and compliance.  PlanSafe enables the collection and delivery of data such as the Warden Structure of a facility, the contact names of the Emergency Control Organisation, the Emergency Evacuation Plan that shows the site-specific instructions as to how occupants are to escape a building and also any alternative solutions that building engineers have specified in the structure.  All critical information for Emergency Services to be aware of – and have the confidence in the information currency, which both PlanSafe and PlanStudio ensure.

Sample_Evacuation Diagram

As Australia Fire Protection regularly visits your site for, we also review to ensure that these details are kept current.  Why?  Because we believe in ensuring A Safer workplace through Emergency Preparedness and Compliance as we Prepare People For Emergencies.  We see the clear alignment with Locatrix because they believe in keeping people safe in buildings by enabling easy capture and sharing of critical building information for public safety professionals including Australian Fire Protection, via their software applications.

Learn more about our fire training and Fire safety courses. Contact us today for fire evacuation plan QLD.

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