Fire safety when working with batteries: Firefighters train at Refurb Battery

Ninge Sweens
The Rijsbergen Fire Department visited Refurb Battery to engage in training scenarios related to battery fires. Extinguishing battery fires presents a unique challenge. One of the main reasons that makes extinguishing battery fires difficult is the fact that batteries undergo chemical reactions to release energy. In the case of electric bike batteries recycled by Refurb Battery, it mainly involves lithium-ion batteries, the burning of which can lead to a phenomenon known as "thermal runaway." This is a self-reinforcing process where the heat released during the burning accelerates the chemical reactions in the battery, resulting in more heat and an increased risk of explosions. Additionally, the cells or batteries are often built into complex and compact systems that are difficult to reach.

Firefighters dealing with battery fires need to be well-versed in the specific characteristics of the batteries and cells used to take effective firefighting measures. Using water for extinguishing can be ineffective or even dangerous. In the case of lithium-ion batteries, water can react with lithium ions, exacerbating the fire and leading to explosions. To handle battery fires, special fire extinguishing agents have been designed. These agents contain substances such as salts or sand to smother the fire and reduce heat dispersion without causing hazardous reactions. Extinguishing battery fires, therefore, requires a specialized approach and a thorough understanding of the chemical processes at play.

By participating in these exercises, we contribute to the development of firefighting methods and the training of emergency services. Together, we ensure safety.

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