Rise in number of fires from batteries of PMDs, e-bikes and power banks

Rise in number of fires from batteries of PMDs, e-bikes and power banks
TODAY file photo
Published: 7:40 PM, February 17, 2017

SINGAPORE — The growing popularity of electrical bicycles, personal mobility devices (PMDs) and power banks has led to an increase in the number of fires involving the batteries of such devices, from 16 cases in 2015 to 34 cases last year, said the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) as it released its annual statistics on Friday (Feb 17).

However, the number of fire-related calls the SCDF received on the whole fell by 10.6 per cent to 4,114 calls, from 4,604 in 2015 — the lowest number of such calls it has received annually since 1978.

Referring to the increasing trend in the number of fires caused by PMDs, e-bicycles and power banks, the SCDF said a large proportion of these cases involved rechargeable batteries, which are often used in these devices.

On July 8, for example, a fire started in the living room where a man had charged his electrical bicycle battery for several hours. Investigations later traced the cause of the fire to the bicycle battery.

The SCDF cautioned that rechargeable batteries that are left charging over long periods of time would result in overcharging, which can cause permanent battery damage to the battery and result in battery swelling.

Older models of rechargeable batteries are not fitted with power cut-off sensors to prevent overcharging, which could lead to sparking off a fire.

“Such fires have the propensity to spread easily, particularly when there are combustible materials,” the SCDF said in its annual fire, ambulance and enforcement statistics report.

Meanwhile, rubbish chute and bin fires remained the top reason for fires in homes, accounting for 1,444 cases — more than half the total number. Unattended cooking and discarded items were the other top types of fires in homes last year.

“While rubbish fires decreased by 6.6 per cent between 2015 and 2016, these fires continued to form the bulk of residential fires at 51.2 per cent,” said the SCDF.

It noted that the number of fires in shopping complexes increased by 25 per cent, from 48 cases in 2015 to 60 cases in 2016. In view of this, the SCDF will be stepping up enforcement checks at shopping complexes to ensure that fire standards are observed. It also worked with the National Fire and Civil Emergency Preparedness Council to conduct a fire safety awareness workshop for fire safety managers of shopping complexes.

Last year saw the SCDF responding to 178,154 calls for emergency medical services (EMS) last year, a 7.4 per cent increase from 2015.

Emergency calls made up 89.4 per cent of the calls, with the number of calls involving the elderly remaining the highest among all age categories at 39.4 per cent.

“Singapore’s ageing population places an increasing load on SCDF’s EMS,” said it said.

If the demand continues to increase at 5 per cent annually, SCDF expects the number of EMS calls to double in 15 years.

“To deal with these challenges, SCDF will be adopting a data-driven, tiered and differentiated frontline response model to optimise its limited resources,” said, adding that more details will be announced later.

In terms of fire safety enforcement, SCDF conducted 15,291 fire safety checks last year, down from the 16,165 checks in 2015.

It also issued 2,776 fire safety offence notices last year, a decrease of 25.9 per cent from 2015.