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Control measure

Safe system of work: Rechargeable batteries

Control measure knowledge

Because batteries and their terminals are often sealed, extinguishing agents may be ineffective. However, water may be applied directly to the battery or its surroundings, in order to cool the battery and limit fire spread.

Water should not be applied directly to the exposed terminals of a battery if it has not been isolated or if there is a risk of electric shock. Firefighting operations can be hindered by the construction of some batteries that are designed to make them water resistant or waterproof. If personnel are in doubt about the correct firefighting techniques, they should seek specialist advice or consider manufacturer’s guidance.

Because of the difficulties associated with attempting to use extinguishing media on these batteries, internally they may become subject to thermal runaway. This reaction cannot be stopped by fire and rescue service actions and can lead to fires, explosions or sudden releases of flammable gases or hazardous materials.

Strategic actions

Fire and rescue services should:
  • Consider establishing arrangements to remove rechargeable batteries if necessary to prevent reignition

Tactical actions

Incident commanders should:
  • Consider the use of thermal imaging to monitor battery temperatures and look for signs of thermal runaway

  • Ensure that firefighters implement the appropriate procedures if rechargeable batteries are known or suspected to be involved

  • Consider the additional resources required to apply firefighting media to batteries that may require cooling for an extended period of time