FAA Says Some Battery Fire Containment Products Could be Mislabeled

Agency warns of the risks when handling burning laptops or tablets.

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The FAA warns that some fire containment kits and bags, used for dealing with lithium ion battery fires on airplanes, might be mislabeled.Pexels

With HP recently recalling 50,000 laptop computers over worries their lithium ion batteries could ignite, fires that might erupt in flight are certain to remain front page news this year. The FAA recently published InFO 17021 to clarify the use of potentially mislabeled fire containment kits and bags, as well as the procedures to deal with incendiary laptops and tablets.

The FAA worries, “a number of manufacturers are marketing fire containment products (kits/bags) that may consist of a containment bag, sleeve or a containment box with or without additional tools such as fire gloves, a pry bar, and face protection/shield. [Some] manufacturers have stated in their advertisements and marketing videos that their products are: ‘FAA certified,’ or ‘successfully tested by the FAA’ or ‘meets FAA standards,’ when that is not the case." The Fire Safety Branch of the FAA William J. Hughes Technical Center and the Aircraft Certification Service said, “There are no FAA test standards for these containment products, nor is there a mechanism in place for the approval of these products.”

More importantly, however, the agency warned that even when using bags that might be effective against a laptop or tablet fire, there is still a significant risk of severe burns to cabin crew or passengers attempting to dump a burning device into a bag. Once devices catch fire, tablets or laptops become unstable and unpredictable.

The only known method of extinguishing a lithium-ion fire on a laptop or tablet is to douse it with water, not just once, but for as long as 15 minutes after the flames have been extinguished or the smoke dissipates. Only then does the agency recommend a cooled device be placed inside a containment product.