Canadian Firefighter Magazine

ESA holds first Ontario Lithium-Ion Battery Safety Symposium in Mississauga

By Brittani Schroeder   

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Photo credit: Brittani Schroeder

July 11, 2024, Mississauga, Ont. – The first Ontario safety symposium from the Energy Security Agency (ESA) was designed to give frontline first responders and investigators a comprehensive overview of lithium-ion battery technology, which is becoming increasingly common in various devices and applications. The event was held at Mississauga Fire & Emergency Services’ (MFES) Garry W. Morden Centre.

The event commenced with opening remarks from Deputy Chief Rob Grimwood of Mississauga, and a commemorative plaque presentation to Chief Deryn Rizzi, celebrating the inaugural event.

Dalan Zartman, a career firefighter and chief operations officer at ESA, began the day with a session on lithium-ion battery safety, covering impacts on firefighting and transportation. He highlighted challenges with electric vehicles (EVs) and battery storage, stressing the need for specialized training. Practical demos and education were cited as crucial for responders to manage incidents like battery fires and EV accidents safely. The talk addressed EV operational specifics, such as cooling systems and high-voltage cable risks, emphasizing safety protocols for effective emergency response.

Jeff Haltrecht, a consultant with ESA, discussed the requirements for any organization or person moving batteries and transporting them across provincial and international borders.

In a presentation focused on electrical safety and batteries, Dirk Fuchs, the director of engineering at ESA, educated those in attendance on EV motor operation, high-voltage circuits, proper personal protective equipment, thermal abuse of batteries, cell balancing, insulation fault and enclosure leaks.

In the next session, John Cassidy from the New York City Fire Department discussed the growing threat of lithium-ion battery fires in urban areas, especially in consumer electronics and micro-mobility sectors. He highlighted the rapid and explosive nature of these fires in densely populated settings like apartments and businesses, citing challenges due to inadequate data and varying response strategies across municipalities. Cassidy also addressed the dangers associated with DIY repairs of lithium-ion batteries in electronics and electric vehicles, emphasizing the risks of fire or explosion from mishandling. He stressed the need for training, safety protocols and regulatory oversight to mitigate these risks effectively, pointing out significant property damage and personal injury observed in such incidents.

In the afternoon, the attendees moved outside for three breakout sessions, which included a dismantling lab and battery handling/packing, a suppression lab, and an EV interaction and ESA risk assessment lab. The day finished with a demonstration led by Jason Defosse, FDIC’s lead instructor, on EV extrication concepts and techniques.

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