Keeping scooters safe from fire
The UK is one of the fastest-growing markets for mobility scooters in Europe. There are an estimated 300,000 in use and this is set to rise as we cater for an ageing population.
TV series such as ‘Benidorm’ have helped fuel their popularity, with many companies capitalising and making them more affordable than ever before.
The mobility scooter has also become one of the top prizes at the hugely popular ‘Bongo’s Bingo’ event, further cementing their popularity!
On a more serious note, for an increasing number of people across the UK and our customers; the ability to store and use a mobility scooter is an essential part of their lives. They bring immense value to the lives of some of our customers by promoting and maintaining their independence.
In recent years there have been a number of incidents across the UK where mobility scooters have been the cause of major fires in people’s homes.
One news story dramatically describes the scooter as having “burst into flames”. Sadly, there have also been reports of fatal fires. One was caused by a mobility scooter left on charge overnight and another resulted from an arson attack specifically directed at a machine.
Thankfully fires involving mobility scooters do not happen every week, but the consequences when they do happen can be particularly devastating.
There are lots of reasons why mobility scooters have the potential to increase the fire risk in your home. They are generally constructed around a steel frame, with plastic fairings, padded foam seats, electrical wiring and a lead acid or lithium battery. All of which are combustible and can easily go on fire.
The batteries especially, have the potential to release toxic chemicals and flammable gases in a fire and these give off large volumes of dense, toxic smoke. This smoke not only reduces visibility if someone is trying to escape, but can also cause incapacitation if you were to breath it in.
Fires involving mobility scooters have been proven to increase the release of heat which is a danger in itself as a mobility scooter fire can reach temperatures in excess of 550 degrees centigrade in a matter of minutes.
Likewise, the Fire Service have highlighted the potential for an escape route to become obstructed by scooters being charged in areas such as hallways, causing a risk to people escaping the building in the case of a fire.
Top tips for mobility scooter storage to minimise fire risk
The mobility scooter guidance provided by the National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) lists various recommendations for scooter storage, including:
- Escape routes should be kept clear to enable all relevant persons to evacuate quickly and safely.
- Manufacturer’s guidelines should be followed.
- Removing the battery from the mobility scooter will remove the source of ignition.
- Avoid charging at night (i.e. between 8pm and 8am) – this will reduce the risk to those who are asleep.
- Mobility scooter users should have insurance cover and are maintaining the equipment in line with the manufacturer’s recommendations.
The below video from Dorset Fire and Rescue Service recommends that mobility scooters aren’t charged in a communal area and to use a dedicated charging point.
It’s vitally important if you have a mobility scooter that you store it safely and plan for a possible emergency, ensuring that you will have a clear escape route from the building.
Owners should ensure that the scooter and charging leads are maintained in line with the manufacturer’s recommendations. This will not only prolong the life of the scooter but also reduce the risk of fire. The manufacturer’s handbook will tell you how often it needs inspecting.
At Halton Housing, we have recently introduced a new ‘Mobility Scooters in Common Parts of Flatted Blocks Policy’ as we have a legal duty as a landlord under fire safety legislation to effectively manage those specific parts of our properties. In doing so, we hope to reduce the risks for all people who use these premises.
If you are the owner of a mobility scooter then please take some time to consider the safety aspects of using, storing and charging the equipment with a view to minimising any potential fire risks in your home.
So, next time you go Bongo’s Bingo and you end up winning a mobility scooter, at least you will know the importance of keeping it well maintained and working safely to minimise fire risk.
Andrew PrinceHealth and Safety Manager
Andrew Prince is Halton Housing’s Health and Safety Manager. It’s Andrew’s job to ensure our colleagues work safely and compliantly and our customers are safe in their homes.
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