Hoverboard safety… Is it an oxymoron?

Due to the number of recent fire incidents associated with hoverboards, Harris County ESD 48 Fire Department urges hoverboard owners and those considering purchasing one to consider the points below and be aware of potential fire hazards associated with these new and popular devices.

On Monday, December 28th 2015, Deerbrook Mall was evacuated when a hoverboard, still in the original packaging, caught fire and eventually exploded.  A mall shopper, Sarah Elizabeth Herbert, caught this video while shopping with her family earlier this week.

There are many different manufacturers of hoverboards, not all are unsafe.  The fire issues that are being seen so far are primarily related to the batteries.  These batteries, in most cases, are Li-Po(lithium polymer) type.  Li-Po batteries use a specific type of charger and have a specific safe operating range. If the batteries are discharged too low or are improperly charged they can become volatile.  This, coupled with many counterfeit devices with potentially substandard parts flooding the market, has created a high potential for fire hazards with this innovative new technology.  Below we have some things to consider before deciding whether to join the craze or steer clear of one of 2015 most popular purchases.

Safety Steps

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and the National Association of State Fire Marshals (NASFM) recently issued safety tips for the use, care, and maintenance of hoverboards.

Purchasing a hoverboard

  • Please take the time to look at and research the product you buy.  Choose a device with the seal of an independent testing laboratory, like Underwriters Laboratories (UL), on their key components.  If it is compliant with federal standards, inspections, and certifications, it will have a mark on it or indicate such on its packaging, on the device itself, or on its charging equipment. There are currently some manufacturers who claim their boards are fully UL tested but UL consumer safety director John Drengenberg recently stated that, “there are presently no UL-certified hoverboards.”
  • Buy a device with a warranty.  If you are buying online, buy from a reputable source or buy it in person at a brick and mortar store so you can personally check for proper labeling. Also, check with your retailer regarding the safety of the device you are purchasing and their return policy if you decide later not to take the risk.

Charging a hoverboard

  • After it has been used, give the device time to cool off prior to charging.
  • Batteries should be visually inspected prior to use and charging and if a battery is swollen or deformed in any way it should never be recharged.
  • If possible charge the device outside and do not leave the device unattended while it is charging.
  • An adult should be responsible for charging the hoverboard, should be able to observe the device during its recharging time and should never leave the hoverboard plugged in overnight.
  • Do not overcharge the device; follow manufacturer’s recommended charging times.
  • Only use the charging cord that came with the hoverboard. Do not use imitation electrical chargers as they may be unsafe.
  • Keep to one plug per socket.

Operating a hoverboard

  • Wear appropriate safety equipment; similar to when riding a bicycle.
  • Do not text or operate a cell phone while using a hoverboard.
  • Operate the device in accordance with its intended use.
  • Stop using your hoverboard if it overheats and check with your manufacturer or retailer. This could suggest a faulty battery that needs replacing.

General hoverboard safety information

  • Read and follow all manufacturer directions.  If you do not understand the directions, ask for help.
  • Extreme hot or cold temperature can hurt the battery.
  • Be on the lookout for product updates from manufacturers and safety groups.
  • Many airlines have banned hoverboards. If you plan to fly with a hoverboard, be sure to check with your air carrier.
  • When riding in a car, keep the hoverboard where you can see it in case it shows signs of a problem.
  • Make sure to have an appropriate fire extinguisher nearby to handle minor incipient fires until the fire dept arrives.

Signs of a Problem

  • Leaking fluids
  • Excessive heat
  • Odor
  • Sparking
  • Smoke

If you notice any of these signs, stop using the device right away. Call 9-1-1.  If safe to do so, move the hoverboard outside away from anything that can burn.

Hoverboard Fire investigation

What Next?

The US Consumer Product Safety Commission is now working nonstop to figure out the actual root causes of these incidents, but they don’t have the answers yet. “We want to be able to deliver for the public, but we hope they’ll be able to appreciate that what’s going on right now is a very thorough science-based investigation,” said CPSC spokesman Scott Wolfson.

We are still waiting to hear what the Consumer Product Safety Commission uncovers. It could be that the organization finds a specific batch of defective batteries or other defective component and issues a recall. The CPSC may push for more voluntary standards like the ones that made laptops and phones safer today.  Or, they could push to ban hoverboards altogether considering they recently reported that there have been 22 incidents of fires in at least 17 states (report incidents at ) and so far 70 Emergency Room treated injuries related to people riding the devices.

Ultimately, the decision is up to you.  We do ask that if you chose to dispose of your hoverboard and you aren’t able to return it, please separate the battery from the device. The battery should not be disposed of with household waste.  You can safely dispose of it at an approved battery recycling center such as a Batteries Plus or a home improvement big box store. The other portion of the hoverboard may be thrown away with curbside waste.

2 thoughts on “Hoverboard safety… Is it an oxymoron?

    • That’s a great question. It’s probably more marketing than anything but since it has basically the same self balancing technology as a Segway it is supposed to feel like you are hovering. Obviously the wheels are still on the ground but since you don’t have to ‘push’ many riders say it feels like you’re floating.

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