Joint statement – Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety (Building and Energy) and Department of Fire and Emergency Services
Western Australians are being asked to take simple steps to protect themselves against home fires as more people stay home to help manage the COVID-19 pandemic.
The number of home fires started by lithium-ion batteries continues to rise with 11 fires this financial year compared to seven in 2018/2019.
The Department of Fire and Emergency Services and Building and Energy WA are warning an increase in the use of lithium-ion batteries expected over the next few weeks and months could result in a surge of preventable blazes.
Rechargeable lithium-ion batteries are found in electrical devices such as phones, computers and remote control cars as well as gardening and home improvement tools like whipper snippers and drills.
Fire and Emergency Services Commissioner Darren Klemm AFSM said COVID-19 restrictions would see more people at home working or undertaking home improvements and gardening.
“With more and more people self-isolating we expect renovation, gardening and working from home activities, which use equipment powered by these batteries, to increase,” he said.
“Lithium-ion batteries are typically charged in areas such as garages, sheds and patios that do not have smoke alarms fitted.
“This can result in a fire going undetected for some time meaning the fire tends to do more damage.”
WA Director of Energy Safety Saj Abdoolakhan said consumers should not use batteries showing signs of swelling, overheating or damage.
“The charger and battery must be correctly matched electrically and comply with Australian standards, so it is vital to only use the charging equipment supplied with the device or purchased from a reputable retailer,” he said.
“All battery chargers are required to undergo rigorous testing to meet Australian standards so be cautious about purchasing any electrical equipment from overseas. Consumers should look for a regulatory compliance mark, such as a tick inside a triangle, or go to eess.gov.au to check whether the charger is approved for use in Australia.
“Avoid overcharging lithium-ion batteries by removing them from the charger as soon as they are recharged.”
There have been over 490 accidental home fires in Western Australia this financial year.
Commissioner Klemm said now was the time to check all smoke alarms in your property were working, clean and had functioning batteries.
“A working smoke alarm is your first and best defence against fire in your home,” he said.
“Never underestimate the speed and ferocity of a house fire because flames can engulf a room in less than five minutes.”