By Carl Campanile and Bernadette Hogan
November 27, 2022 5:48pm
NYC landlords must post FDNY safety bulletin warning of e-bike battery fires
City landlords will be required to post an FDNY safety guide warning apartment dwellers about fires caused by e-bike batteries that have killed six people so far this year, The Post has learned.
The fire department published the emergency safety bulletin to help prevent the deadly blazes, as New Yorkers buy up popular electronic bikes, scooters and hoverboards during the Christmas shopping season.
There have been at least 140 fires tied to the devices in New York City in 2022, with 140 injured and six people killed in the blazes — including one in August that trapped a young girl inside an East Harlem apartment, officials said.
An 8-year-old girl was killed in Queens the following month in a fire sparked by a lithium battery from her sibling’s new electric scooter.
E-bikes and other lithium-ion battery-powered mobility devices have become all the rage. But many people store and charge e-bike batteries in their apartment, which “present serious fire safety hazards,” officials said.
“Apartments have been severely damaged,” states the bulletin, published last week in the City Record.
The guide — which will need to be posted inside apartment complexes by April 30 — urges consumers to immediately stop charging an e-bike and call 911 if there is fire or smoke, battery overheating, leaking or a strange smell or a battery making an odd noise.
The FDNY also posted a public service video on its Instagram account urging Big Apple residents to take safety measures to prevent such fires when e-bikes are stored in their homes.
“Christmas is coming. You think of the e-bikes… the lithium-ion batteries which power electric mobility devices will be a big gift for the holiday season,” said Dan Flynn, the FDNY’s chief fire marshal.
“Understand that they are great and convenient for us to use in our communities. But they do pose some risk,” he said. “When you buy these for your children, don’t let them charge [the batteries] in inside your children’s bedroom.”
The FDNY emergency bulletin, titled “WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT E-BIKE FIRE SAFETY,” urges New Yorkers to:
- Only buy e-bikes and other mobility devices that are certified by nationally recognized testing labs that have symbols including “UL”, “ETL” and “CSA.” “The laboratories test these products to make sure they meet industry standards and are safe to operate under normal circumstances.”
- Only use the original battery, power adapter and power cord that comes with the e-bike, or a manufacturer-recommended or lab-certified replacements.
- “NEVER use unapproved batteries/chargers, even if they are much less expensive. WHY? Unapproved batteries or chargers may not be designed to work with an e-bike or e-bike battery. “RESULT: An unapproved battery may overcharge, overheat and catch on fire.”
- Plug the e-bike directly into an electrical wall outlet when charging and “NEVER charge an e-bike or e-bike battery with an extension cord or power strip.” “WHY? Lithium-ion battery charging requires a lot of electrical current, more than most extension cords and power strips can handle. RESULT: The extension cord or power cord can overheat and cause a fire.”
- Store e-bike chargers and batteries in a safe facility and “not in your apartment, if possible” because they lack sprinkler systems and there are too many flammable furnishings and household goods, such as drapes and papers.
- “NEVER charge the battery overnight or when you are not in the apartment.”
Lawmakers are also attempting to address the problem.
State Senator Liz Krueger (D-Manhattan) recently proposed two bills to help prevent fires caused by malfunctioning lithium-ion batteries — by only allowing the sale of such batteries if they are tested by a nationally recognized testing lab, and prohibiting the sale of reconditioned or second-use lithium-ion batteries.
“Reconditioned and untested batteries are contributing to a serious threat to the health and safety of New Yorkers in their homes and in their jobs, whether it’s delivery workers trying to make a living, or residential tenants living next to a fly-by-night charging business,” Krueger said.
“When a piece of equipment has the potential to cause so much damage, we simply cannot have a wild west approach without any oversight.”
The City Council is moving to take similar action.
Councilman Oswald Feliz (D-Bronx) also introduced legislation that would restrict the sale of uncertified e-bike batteries.
“We must ensure that products sold in our city are safe for New Yorkers, and ensuring that batteries be certified before they are sold and used is crucial to helping resolve the growing problem,” Feliz said.