Earlier this year, an unexpected explosion and subsequent fire occurred in one of our client's buildings. The client was renting out part of the premises to another company who, amongst other things, were charging scooter batteries in one of the rooms on the ground floor.
Fortunately, the explosion occurred after working hours and no one was in the surrounding rooms. The doorman was on rounds at the time, otherwise he probably would not have survived, despite the fact that the doorman room was further away from the site of the explosion. The blast had significantly damaged and demolished the surrounding area. The pressure wave even damaged the ceiling above the main entrance to the building. Fortunately, the subsequent fire was quickly brought under control thanks to the quick arrival of professional firefighters, but the smoke reached the 5th floor.
The cause of the fire was classified as an unspecified technical fault during the battery charging.
As soon as the insured notified us of the damage (2 days after the incident), the adjuster inspected the site and on the same day a professional remediation company was engaged in cooperation with the client, who immediately began performing the necessary remediation work (cleaning of surfaces, remediation of materials, removal of odors after the fire, and related cleanup and assembly or disassembly work). The cost of this remediation amounted to EUR 34 000. In addition, Colonnade paid EUR 119 000 for the restoration of the damaged premises to their original state.
The damage could have been much greater had it not been a building with fire-resistant construction and the quick intervention of the fire brigade, and more costly to repair if a professional remediation service had not been involved.
It should be remembered that charging electric batteries carries with it an increased risk of fire. The best way to protect yourself from a battery fire or explosion is to use the original charger supplied with the battery and to use undamaged batteries.
Damage to the battery may be considered:
- A dented, punctured, cracked, or otherwise damaged battery cover,
- if the battery is inflated,
- if the battery overheats excessively.
Battery fires can also occur if batteries are charged in a humid environment. It is also dangerous to store instruments with batteries in direct sunlight due to overheating of the batteries. In the summer months, car fires caused by a mobile phone placed on a dashboard illuminated by the sun's rays occur.
Thermal runaway* of li-ion batteries is not dramatic since its inception. Therefore, it is possible (if spotted in time) to move an already burning battery to a safe place.
For early spotting it is advisable:
- Do not charge the batteries unless they are supervised (e.g. at night),
- charge the batteries in places that are protected by a smoke detector (suitable for places where several batteries are being charged),
- For battery storage, it is advisable to check the storage with a built-in thermal imaging camera (infrared camera) and to ensure that the battery is moved to a suitable location when the temperature rises.
Recommendation for clients: as the charging of electric batteries has a significant impact on the level of risk of explosion or fire, this factor should be mentioned to the insurer when arranging the insurance, or when changing it during the period of the insurance already arranged.
The insurer may then take this risk into account in the terms and conditions of the insurance. In the event of an insured event, it may not reduce the insurance benefit.
*Thermal runaway is an uncontrollable reaction caused by a disruption of the internal structure of the battery. This reaction generates heat in the battery and releases flammable gases, leading to fires and explosions of Li-Ion batteries.