The Ever-Present Risk of Fire

Tuesday, Sep 11 2018 04:15 PM

How safe are your valuables — your jewellery, heirlooms, collectibles, art pieces, memorabilia, educational and achievement certificates, etc — at home?

Just last month, a video of an electric scooter in a living room exploding while being charged, engulfing the place in flames, was circulated on social media1. A phone that exploded while it was being charged resulted in the death of a Malaysian CEO and his bed catching fire2. A Personal Mobility Device (PMD) was probably behind another raging fire that consumed the living room and three bedrooms of a maisonette unit in January this year3.

A fire caused by the overnight charging of an electric bicycle injured an infant and three other residents of a HDB block in October 20174. An electric scooter left to charge overnight was responsible for another fire in a HDB flat, causing three people to flee the unit, in July 201765.

The risk of fire is ever present, even in safety-conscious Singapore. We hear it in the news; we read about it on social media.

The number of fire calls the SCDF responded to in 2017 was the lowest recorded in 40 years — but that number was still 3,8716, i.e. an average of 10.6 fires every day! Of these, the number occurring in residential premises was 2,657, a staggering rate of 7.3 residential fires a day.

And the number of fires involving electric scooters jumped almost 350 percent last year6. The main reasons for this appear to be the use of rechargeable lithium-ion batteries used in most PMDs, according to the SCDF, coupled with overcharging of these batteries.

The insurance industry has a term — High-Impact, Low-Probability — to describe events that are unlikely to happen but that can have devastating consequences. A fire in your home is one such event, and one you can easily take precautions for. Do you still want to keep your valuables at home?

Sources:

  1. Electric Scooter EXPLODES While Charging!, Aug 2018, facebook.com/RTvids/videos/2091534814190094/
  2. Shrapnel from exploding phone kills Malaysia CEO, June 2018, sg/shrapnel-from-exploding-phone-kills-malaysia-ceo/
  3. “Preliminary investigation findings indicate the cause of fire is of electrical origin, and had originated from a Personal Mobility Device (PMD) which was being charged.”, January 2018, facebook.com/40555400582/posts/10154968907450583/
  4. Infant and three others injured in fire caused by overnight charging of e-bike, Oct 2017, news.yahoo.com/infant-three-others-injured-fire-caused-overnight-charging-e-bike-111727472.html
  5. Electric scooter charging overnight in Choa Chu Kang flat sparks fire, forcing 3 people to flee, Jul 2017, straitstimes.com/singapore/electric-scooter-charging-overnight-in-choa-chu-kang-flat-sparks-fire-forcing-3-people-to
  6. Number of Fires Involving e-Scooters Spikes Nearly 350%: SCDF, 9 Feb 2018, https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/number-of-fires-involving-e-scooters-spikes-nearly-350-scdf-9943786