Don’t Turn Your Vacation into an Embarrassing Headline

Sometimes no matter how many precautions you take, there is no way to stop the inevitable. Football players with helmets designed to protect their brains still get concussions. You cross every “t” and dot every “i” on your federal income tax return and you still get audited. And sometimes even if you follow all of the safety tips for lithium ion batteries in my previous blog, they still can explode.

However, by not taking the proper preventative measures in all of the cases listed above, the chances of a negative outcome can be greatly increased. With the travel season looking to pick-up in the coming months and many of us looking to hop on a plane and head out to our idea of paradise, I think it is safe to say that none of us want to end up in a situation like the story below.

What Happened?

Just like any other domestic flight, passengers on a Delta flight in New York City were stowing their carry on items in the overhead storage bins and preparing for take-off for a scheduled departure to Houston, Texas. Suddenly, passengers started to smell something burning, similar to the smell of a camp-fire. It was at that point that passengers started to see smoke in the cabin and begin panicking. The panic was caused by a vape pen that started smoldering inside a bag after the device’s battery pack overheated in one of the overhead storage bins. Luckily a flight attended was able to quickly grab ahold of a fire extinguisher and put the fire out. This type of scenario is actually more common than we think, especially with our increased dependence on lithium-ion batteries. An FAA report from August 2018 shows there have been at least 225 cases of smoke, fire, overheating or explosion involving lithium-ion batteries or other unknown types of batteries on plans and in airports since 1991.

What Could Have happened?

In another previous blog, we discussed a worse possible case scenario where a laptop battery can actually bring down an airplane under the right (or wrong) conditions In this particular case luckily the fire occurred before the flight took off and in the cabin where there was a flight attendant nearby with a fire extinguisher to save the day. The worst-case-scenario here would have been if the fire happened in the air and if it was stowed in a cargo unit where other flammable items were nearby and without someone to put the fire out. In this case, this would have been a far more tragic ending.

How to Prevent This from Occurring?

The key here is to prevent the lithium battery from over-heating or possibly turning on by forces of nearby objects that may be firmly pressing up against it. The best bet here would be to keep items like these out of tightly packed storage bins where the temperature may be higher and definitely out of cargo units where there is no one below to extinguish a fire in the event of a lithium battery explosion occurring. In addition, it’s a good idea to keep your lithium battery-powered device away from metal objects or other lithium battery-powered devices that may cause a reaction.

What Can The Airline Do?

Passengers need to know that the seemingly innocuous item they are carrying could put an entire flight at risk. Signage to create awareness for personal items that contain lithium-ion batteries could be posted throughout an airport and also discussed by flight attendants during their routine safety speech. Airlines should ensure their flight and ground staff have been adequately trained and have the right tools to extinguish a lithium-ion fire in an emergency, such as in this incident. The best way to put out a lithium-ion battery based fire is with a foam extinguisher, CO2, ABC dry chemical, powdered graphite, copper powder, or soda (sodium carbonate).

How can ICC Help?

We have dangerous goods professionals that can answer your questions about lithium batteries, as well as products like CellBlockEX. ICC also offers lithium battery training courses through air, ground, and sea referenced at the link below:

Feel free to contact us at 1-888-442-9628 in The United States or 1-888-977-4834 in Canada for more information.

Main Article:

Other Sources:

Michael Zendano

Michael Zendano

Michael Zendano started with ICC Compliance Center back in 2016 with several years in the packaging field as a Quality Control Manager. In addition, he has 8 years experience in teaching. Michael works at the Niagara Falls Office as the Packaging/Regulatory specialist where he manages packaging projects and procedures and is a member of the Institute of Packaging Professionals (IOPP) and The Chemical Packaging Committee (CPC) . Degrees: M.S. Science of Education.