Changes to lithium fire procedures.
A recent spike in thermal runaways involving lithium batteries has resulted in an ongoing review of emergency procedures at the Naval Ordnance Safety and Security Activity (NOSSA), which manages the Navy's lithium battery program for Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA). Results were not what most of us would have expected.
For years we all have been told that water coming in contact with lithium batteries would result in an explosive situation. The fact is, confirmed by the testing at NOSSA, water is the preferred method for cooling a thermal runaway and fighting a fire containing lithium batteries. The procedures for an electrolyte spill are still baking soda (sodium bicarbonate), but the changes in battery construction and composition have required a change in thermal runaway and firefighting procedures. The FAA and the International Air Travel Association both have in their procedures to use halon or water to extinguish lithium-based fire, then to cool the remaining cells by immersing in water. The goal is to cool the lithium cells as quickly as possible, as the lithium compound in batteries burn extremely hot. The testing at NOSSA shows that fires will immediately reignite if there is not a constant stream of halon applied. The other factor is that halon is becoming rarer due to none being manufactured since 1994.
NAVSEA S9310-AQ-SAF-010 will be updated to reflect the results of these tests. Links to the FAA and IATA documents are below. Any unit wanting to see the results of the testing at NOSSA can contact the avionics analysts at the Naval Safety Center, or the NOSSA help desk.
Naval Ordnance Safety and Security Activity:
The FAA document can be seen at:
http://www.faa.gov/other visit/aviation industry/ airline operators/airline safety/safo/all safos/ media/2009/SAFO09013.pdf
The IATA document can be seen at:
http://www.iata.org/whatwedo/safety/Documents/ Guidance-on-Handling-Dangerous-Goods-Inci dents-and-Lithium-Battery-Fires-in-the-Passen ger-Cabin.pdf
By GySgt John McKay