- Scroll down for information on how to get a free residential smoke alarm.
Thinking of buying the latest tech gear this festive season? Illawarra's firefighters are pleading with people to help keep their family safe.
Rechargeable lithium-ion batteries are common place these days and they're found in everything from smartphones, laptops, e-bikes, drones, tools and toys.
The presence of a flammable and volatile liquid electrolyte solution inside the batteries has seen them become the fastest-growing fire risk in NSW.
Recently, a Coniston family fled for their lives after a phone left charging in the dining room overnight erupted in flames just before 3am on November 20.
The fire caused extensive damage to the room and left thick, black smoke billowing through the rest of the house.
In other parts of NSW homes have been destroyed and lives put in grave danger as batteries in e-bikes and other tech gear exploded in fire.
Fire and Rescue NSW Illawarra Inspector Andrew Barber said tech gear is often on the top of Christmas lists.
"The first thing they do, they plug them in, they go to bed at night," he said.
"Our concern is that at nighttime, if it's the incorrect charger [or] a faulty battery, it could be the catalyst for a fire breaking out in the house.
"If there's no smoke alarm to alert the occupants, it could be a catastrophic fire for the people involved."
The phone that caused the Coniston fire was around 10 years old and older technology has a higher risk of failure.
Inspector Barber urged people not to charge items in rooms with high fuel loads including bedrooms or loungerooms.
Buy reputable brands, use genuine parts and don't put the wrong batteries in the wrong charging unit.
"Within the next 10 years, every house will average approximately 30 of these different devices going from tools to toys to even new vacuum cleaners," Inspector Barber said.
Lithium-ion battery safety
- Make sure a smoke alarm or heat alarm is working in rooms where batteries are charged or stored.
- Charge batteries on hard surfaces that can't catch on fire like concrete floors or tiles. Don't charge them on surfaces like beds, sofas, or carpet.
- Large batteries like the ones used in e-scooters, e-bikes, and power-tools, should only be charged in the garage, shed or carport, away from living spaces and exits.
When to charge
- Do not charge batteries when sleeping or not at home.
- Once the device has a full battery, disconnect it from the charger.
- Never use and charge devices at the same time in bed. Devices like phones, tablets and vapes can overheat and catch fire when left on blankets, sheets, and clothing.
- Don't use and charge batteries that are swelling or bulging, leaking, or overheating. Don't use and charge the device if it is cracked, dented, punctured, or crushed.
- If the charger didn't come with the device or battery don't use it. Only use approved chargers to charge your battery.
- Only use chargers that show the Australian Regulatory Compliance Mark Tick.
- Charging a device or battery with the wrong power output (voltage and current), can cause damage to the battery and overheat it which can cause a fire.
- Batteries that show any signs of damage should be disposed of carefully as they carry the risk of becoming involved in a fire.
- Damaged batteries and battery-powered devices include:
- Batteries that show signs of swelling or bulging, leaking, cracks, dents, punctures, or crushing
- Overheated batteries that may have vapours or smoke
- Batteries that have gotten wet or have been in water
- Batteries that have been in or exposed to fire.
Lithium-ion batteries can not be placed into home garbage or recycling bins. They can cause fires during waste collection, transportation, handling and processing.
Small, undamaged batteries (not swollen, punctured, or leaking, etc.) can be safely disposed of at a battery recycling drop off point. It is recommended that battery terminals are taped over with clear adhesive tape before placing the battery carefully (without dropping it) into a battery recycling collection bin.
Information on where and how to dispose of used batteries can be found from:
Free smoke alarm, fire safety advice at your home
Firefighters are so concerned about the number of house fires in the Illawarra, that they've teamed up with the Illawarra Mercury to provide free smoke alarms (including free installation) and fire safety advice for residents.
There is no catch, the smoke alarm is free and so is the fire safety advice.
If you're reading this story on your mobile phone click here to book, otherwise scan the QR code above to request a free smoke alarm.