SCDF received 40 cases of e-scooter fires in 2017, cautions against overnight charging

Damage caused by an e-scooter battery that caught fire while charging overnight at Block 260 Yishun St 22. Photo: SCDF
Damage caused by an e-scooter battery that caught fire while charging overnight at Block 260 Yishun St 22. Photo: SCDF

The number of fire incidents caused by electric scooters in Singapore surged to 40 last year due to overcharging of batteries.

At a media briefing to unveil its annual statistics, the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) said on Friday (9 February) the fire incidents involving e-scooters was a surge from nine such cases in 2016.

In total, there were 49 fire incidents caused by personal mobility devices (PMDs) – e-scooters, e-bikes and other PMDs – in 2017, according to SCDF’s fire, ambulance and enforcement statistics report.

Most e-scooters, e-bikes and PMDs use lithium ion batteries, which have flammable internal materials. Overcharging of these batteries could cause fires and as such, PMD users should not charge their devices overnight or when no one is at home, SCDF cautioned.

A battery fire caused by a PMD usually starts small but can spread and cause significant damage if there are combustible materials nearby, said Assistant Commissioner (AC) Ling Young Ern at the briefing held at SCDF’s headquarters in Ubi. A number of such fires have resulted in injury to residents in the unit where the PMD was charged, the director of SCDF’s operations department added.

To highlight the potential fire hazard, SCDF plans to circulate an advisory in the four official languages on how to avoid battery fires when charging PMDs.

AC Ling advised, “Continued vigilance is very important. It doesn’t mean that a fire cannot occur with a new product.”

He added, “It’s very much a personal responsibility. With the greater use of such devices for transport and the ease of usage and the availability of such devices, we can expect more of such devices to be used. Awareness of how to prevent such fires is very important.”

Fire calls at 40-year low

SCDF recorded 3,871 fire calls last year, the lowest in 40 years. The 5.9 per cent drop in such calls from 4,114 in 2016 was due mainly to a decline in rubbish, vehicle and vegetation fires.

A total of 2,657 fires occurred in residential premises, a decrease of 5.7 per cent from 2,818 previously.

The top three causes of fires in residential premises were rubbish fires, unattended cooking and fires involving discarded items.

Last year, SCDF responded to 182,502 Emergency Medical Services (EMS) calls, 6.2 per cent of which were non-emergencies. These translated to an average of 30 non-emergency calls a day.

SCDF’s AC Yazid Abdullah urged members of the public to make EMS calls only when necessary as non-emergency calls divert critical medical resources from where they are needed. The medical department director said SCDF will continue to raise public awareness about the difference between non-emergency and emergency cases.

Last April, SCDF introduced a tiered EMS response framework to improve operational efficiency. Under the framework, operations centre officers (OCCs) and firefighters are trained to attend to EMS calls. In the case of OCCs, they provide callers with medical advice before SCDF emergency responders arrive, or what is known as telephone medical triaging.

SCDF has been raising public awareness of the framework through social media and other platforms since August last year and will continue to do so.

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