As power sources for electronic equipment, appliances and devices used in senior living communities and nursing homes become more sophisticated and battery technology advances, the threat of a lithium battery fire is always a possibility.
Equipment used by the maintenance crew, environmental services department and clinical teams for sanitation and infection control purposes, as well as the delivery of medical therapies, often uses tools and equipment that require the use of lithium batteries.
It is essential for community and facility operators to be aware of the risks associated with those types of power sources and charging protocols. Walk into the bio-med department, housekeeping office, maintenance department or any number of other areas in just about any senior living community or healthcare facility and you likely will find batteries charging.
Proper charging and discharge requirements typically are included with the instructions that come with electronic equipment and batteries. It is important to be thoroughly familiar with those protocols to safely handle, store, charge and use electrical devices that use lithium batteries.
If a lithium battery fire were to occur, it is important to understand that it is possible that the building’s fire sprinkler system in the area where the batteries are burning may not extinguish the fire due to the intense heat and reaction that occurs when those power supplies explode and cook-off. The fire sprinkler systems likely will control fires involving common combustibles that may ignite in the area as a result of the burning batteries. It is important to provide appropriate clearance around battery chargers and to consider reducing the amount of combustible material near charging stations as a best practice.
Educate your team about the risks associated with lithium battery fires by watching the short, informative video below, produced by Clark, Seif, Clark (https://csceng.com/), an environmental health and safety company.
Here are some other resources:
Stan Szpytek is the president of the national consulting firm Fire and Life Safety, based in Mesa, AZ. He is a consultant for the American Assisted Living Association and is the life safety/disaster planning consultant for the Arizona Health Care Association, California Association of Health Facilities and Utah Health Care Association. Szpytek is a former deputy fire chief and fire marshal with more than 40 years of experience in life safety compliance and emergency preparedness. For more information, visit www.FLSafety.org or e-mail Szpytek at [email protected].
The opinions expressed in each McKnight’s Senior Living guest column are those of the author and are not necessarily those of McKnight’s Senior Living.
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