NFIRSGram is the newly issued guidance that will help fire departments in correctly coding electronic cigarette fires in the National Fire Incident Reporting system. In 2009-2014, there have been 25 separate incidents of ecig-related fire and explosion that were featured in the US media. NFIRSGram aims to simplify the coding of explosion and fire sources.

Electronic Cigarette Fires And Explosion Incidents

Media usually describe these as small explosions that suddenly occur. These events are also reported accompanied by a flash of light, a loud noise, flames or smoke. Reports also claimed that components like the battery fly across the room. The ejected hot component usually landed on combustible surface like carpets, bedding or curtains where fire also started.

Causes Of Ecigarette Fires

Ecig failures in photos and descriptions are consistently caused by failed lithium polymer batteries, which are also common causes of mishaps with other electronic gadgets like laptops and mobile phones. Lithium ion batteries could fail due to overheating, overcharge, puncture, internal cell failure, short circuit and manufacturing deficiencies.

When the battery’s temperature increases, its electrolyte can ignite. This results to overpressure, which ruptures the cell and ejects the battery core from its case. Moreover, the electrolyte in lithium ion batteries is flammable.

Majority of incidents that media reported occurred while the battery was plugged into a charger. Different kinds of charging sources were reported to be used including vehicle USB adapters, laptop USB ports, wall adapter USB ports and desktop computer USB ports.

A possible source of problem is the use of regular USB port charging connections. Very few consumers understand the inequality among USB ports. USB ports could provide varying currents and voltages. Technical specifications of USB power adapter and computer must first be consulted in order to know how much power can be supplied by a USB port or if it is safe to use with an ecigarette.

An ecigarette plugged into a standard USB port might get an amount of current that is higher than what the battery requires. This results to thermal runaway that causes fire and explosion.

NFIRS coding

According to the NFIRS code the element that caused a fire is a heat source (code 12) if the heat conducted or radiated came from operating equipment.

Item first ignited is the item contacted by the battery or device like chair cushion or curtain that the fire department determined.

Failure code 50 is for operational deficiencies and the like that caused the battery to fail during charging.

Code 40 is for the design, installation deficiency and manufacturing defects or the likes that made the ecig fail at any other time.

Code 229is for all battery types for equipment involved in ignition. If the cause of failure is the power source, then the best code to use is again code 12 for batteries and low voltage less than 50 volts. Code 1 is for portable equipment.

Lithium Ion Battery Failure Impact Different In Ecigs

The impact of battery failure is different in electronic cigarettes than other electronic equipment because of the cylindrical setup of the battery case where the structural point is at its weakest. When the battery seal at the end is ruptured, the pressure inside the ecig cylinder is quickly built and is disintegrated.

When the battery and/or container fail, components can be propelled across the area like a small rocket or bullet. Lithium ion batteries used in laptops and portable gadgets are contained inside rigid cases made of plastic that are generally made durable enough to prevent rocketing away when the battery fails. Fires may result, but mostly involve the device alone whose battery failed.