Florida rules process begins for lithium-ion battery storage to prevent fires

Changes in Florida after a News 6 investigation exposed there are no rules for safely storing batteries known to overheat and catch fire.

They’re called lithium-ion batteries, and they power everything from your kids’ toys, to your cell phone, and possibly your car.

Our investigation caught the attention of state lawmakers, including State Fire Marshal and Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, leading them to pass HB 989.

Two weeks ago, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the legislation that allows the state fire marshal to create new rules for lithium-ion battery fires.

And now, those rules are now in the works.

“It’s extremely difficult for our firefighters to put these out,” Patronis said at a news conference Thursday in Orlando.

Patronis pulled together a host of firefighters and lawmakers to announce they will be producing rules to “address necessary fire safety requirements for batteries and other energy storage systems,” according to a Florida Code document.

“We learned from Hurricane Ian that lithium-ion batteries can be volatile,” Patronis said.

During Ian, more than 20 electric vehicles caught fire after the cars flooded with salt water.

“They short out and when they short out, they create a cascade effect where the batteries, you can’t put them out, they will burn until there’s no fuel left,” Patronis said, noting the battery fires, burn hotter and longer than regular fires.

At the Waste Transfer Station in Seminole County, a lithium-ion battery thrown in the trash last year did nearly half a million dollars in damage when it caught fire.

The Seminole Fire Department now has training and tools for battery fires, like blankets that can cover an entire SUV to smother the fire.

It’s time to have a uniform set of protocols across the state to keep firefighters and first responders safe, Patronis said.

“We’re going to bring all the stakeholders together. The manufacturers, our firefighters and were going to create policies here in Florida that will lead the nation,” he said.

As Florida creates its rules, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the “Setting Consumer Standards for Lithium-ion Battery Act” so federal legislation could soon be on the way, as well.

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