Portable fire extinguishers marketed for lithium-ion battery fires

On the Finnish market, some portable fire extinguishers are marketed as being specifically designed or suitable for lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery fires. These fire extinguishers also have ratings according to SFS-EN 3-7. However, it is not possible to infer the extinguishing capability of an extinguisher in the case of a lithium-ion battery fire from a rating given based on the standard. There is no standardised test method or test fire for lithium-ion battery fires to assess the extinguishing performance of products. The manufacturer is obligated to indicate the extinguishing performance of the product, however. A realistic information of the extinguishing performance and sufficient information on the safe use of the extinguisher must be provided. The responsibility for the safety of fire extinguishers lies with the manufacturer, importer and seller.

As lithium-ion battery fires are unpredictable, involve many risks in the form of gases and burning projectiles, and often re-ignite after a long period of time, it is extremely important to highlight the dangers in the operating instructions of portable fire extinguishers marketed for battery fires. 

Portable fire extinguishers for lithium-ion battery fires are a type of first extinguishing equipment that must comply with the requirements of the Rescue Services Equipment Act (Laki pelastustoimen laitteista 10/2007) and the Decree of the Ministry of the Interior on the Inspection and Maintenance of Portable Fire Extinguishers (Sisäasiainministeriön asetus käsisammuttimien tarkastuksesta ja huollosta 790/2001). Particular attention must be paid to the following:

  1. A realistic information of the extinguishing performance of the extinguisher in a lithium-ion battery fire must be given, i.e., the battery size for which the extinguisher is suitable must be mentioned.
  2. Information on the special characteristics of lithium-ion battery fires and the risks that it causes to the person extinguishing the fire must be provided with the extinguisher.
  3. Upon request, information on how the extinguishing performance of the product has been determined must be submitted to the Finnish Safety and Chemicals Agency (Tukes). In practice, this means documentation related to the testing and determination of the extinguishing performance, for example.

Grounds for the requirements:

According to the Rescue Services Equipment Act:

  • A portable fire extinguisher must be fit for its purpose and safe to use.
  • The characteristics of the portable fire extinguisher must be such that it can be used safely and without causing any danger to people, property or the environment.
  • The portable fire extinguisher must be accompanied with the information and instructions necessary for its proper use and maintenance. The operating and maintenance instructions must provide adequate information on the characteristics, intended use and safe handling of the portable fire extinguisher.
  • Those who deal in the marketing of portable fire extinguishers or hand over a fire extinguisher to another must ensure and be able to reliably prove that the portable fire extinguisher meets the relevant requirements.