Monthly Archives: September 2016

DBI investigates the fire safety of batteries in ferry project


Batteries are not only making their way into our buildings. They are also making inroads into the transport sector.

They can be found in, for example, hybrid cars and also in ferries, which use battery packs as a supplement to their diesel engines. And now, the first all-electric ferry is on its way to Denmark. It is being planned for the so-called E-Ferry Project, which is an EU project. The project is still in embryo and, more specifically, work is being carried out on the routes between the Danish islands of Ærø and Funen and between Ærø and Als.

It is hoped that the electric ferries will be put into operation in 2017. DBI is involved in the project and is focusing on fire safety with regard to batteries as well as the lightweight plastic components the owners would like to use in the construction of the ferry to reduce its weight.

– There are EU standards for batteries in which fire safety in relation to operational situations has been incorporated, but they do not deal with fire safety in the event of an accident occurring. For example, there is a big difference between handling a single battery in a safe way and handling a large bank of batteries that are involved in a fire. Battery systems have slipped under the radar slightly in relation to fire safety since batteries come under the standardisation organisation CENELEC, which normally doesn’t work with determining the impact on fire parameters such as heat and smoke generation. However, these parameters should be determined in order to assess the fire risk in the case of an accident, says Martin Pauner, who is a civil engineer with DBI, and involved in the E-Ferry Project.

Just as on land, batteries entail a lot of unknown factors in relation to fire safety at sea: How do different types of battery react to saltwater, when they get damaged during a sailing or if a fire breaks out elsewhere on the ferry. And, how good are the different batteries’ cells at preventing the spread of the fire in the event of ‘thermal runaway’ in an individual cell?

These are just some of the questions that DBI will attempt to find an answer to in relation to the project.

Italian 2016 Safety Expo


Bergamo September 21-22, 2016

This year the Italian annual Fire Safety Forum, the most important Italian exposition dealing with fire safety, joins the annual Safety at work Forum in the “Safety Expo” which will take place in Bergamo on September 21 and 22.

The 2016 Fire Safety Forum reaches its 12th edition, and the Safety at work Forum its 5th edition.

The meeting will have the participation of the eminences of the National Fire Fighters Corp, of many national and international companies dealing with fire safety materials and hundreds of designers, technicians and producers. The program includes various conferences about the latest news, codes and products and more than 40 specific seminars and technical workshops.

Our Italian member AIAS will be a partner of the meeting.

In the last years the Fire Safety Forum confirmed its role as the most important Italian meeting concerning fire safety.

Several safety risks looming in solar panels in Finland


Solar panels can pose severe safety risks if not installed or used properly. The Finnish National Rescue Association SPEK points out that all electrical work done in the electrical grid must be performed by a certified professional. In addition, if a large solar panel is installed on the roof, safe exit routes must be secured.

– There are several types of solar panels available which might tempt people to try to execute do-it-yourself installations. This is however a bad idea – all installations and work done in the electrical grid should be conducted by certified professionals, says Lauri Lehto, Security Expert at The Finnish National Rescue Association.

Solar panels have continuous electrical voltage and depending on the switching, the voltage can become dangerously high. This poses a threat not only to residents and property but also to firefighters when extinguishing fires.

¬ Residents need to have the knowledge and capabilities to act if there is an issue with the device. Well-executed documentation, maintenance and action plans are crucial in these situations, states Lehto.

So far there has been a lack of safety instructions dealing with the installation and usage of solar panels, both nationally and internationally. The Confederation of Fire Protection Association Europe (CFPA-Europe) intends to change this by drafting a guideline on solar panels in 2016.

More Information:

CFPA Europe presents itself at VdS-FireSafety Cologne 2016


CFPA Europe will be present at the VdS-FireSafety Cologne 2016 (7th/8th December) – for the first time with our own exhibition booth. We will be happy to inform visitors about our current offers, among them our internationally renowned certificates, our training courses throughout Europe, and our guidelines on European level.
As every year, VdS-FireSafety Cologne will take place in the Cologne Exhibition Centre and comprise a trade fair, six expert conferences – one of them the renowned conference on “Fire Extinguishing Systems” in simultaneous translation German/English –, and the Science and Exhibitors Forum , where universities and exhibitors will hold short presentations. CFPA Europe, too, will participate in the Exhibitors Forum and present our latest topics.

Further information can be found at:

First Monitoring and Alarm Receiving Centre in Scandinavia certified according to EN 50518

Peter Sinervo CEO Falck Norway, Rune Høiseth Mayor Larvik, Johnny Eliassen Landlord HG Eiendom, Henrik Magnusson Project manager, Management Falck Denmark

Peter Sinervo CEO Falck Norway, Rune Høiseth Mayor Larvik, Johnny Eliassen Landlord HG Eiendom, Henrik Magnusson Project manager, Management Falck Denmark

In October 2015, VdS Schadenverhütung has audited and certified the first monitoring and alarm receiving centre (MARC) in Larvik, Norway according to EN 50518: Falck Redning AS. This is the first monitoring and alarm receiving centre which has been certified to this relatively new standard.

Due to a high grade of experience in this field and the participation in the development of the standard, the company Falck Redning AS contacted VdS for this certification procedure. Of course, VdS did not miss this chance and took the opportunity to translate the procedure guidelines and the correspondence into English language. At first stage in August 2014, a first exploratory discussion with Falck Redning AS in Larvik was held. Then, during telephone conversations and mail correspondence all further questions on constructional, technical and organizational requirements of the standard were clarified with the project manager of Falck, the charged representatives of the respective subsections and the Norwegian insurer. During the further planning especially the verification management of product conformity to the European standard for façade elements (doors, windows), the lightening, fire and intrusion protection as well as monitoring and alarm receiving techniques of the MARC were checked by VdS. The procedure of VdS foresees preliminary examinations for determination of standard conformity before a final expert assessment after completion of the MARC is performed. The influence of the information technology here, also takes an essential part, even if at this time the standard EN 50518 does not contain concrete requirements.

Peter Sinervo CEO Falck Norway, Ola Aas Løwer ARC Manager

Peter Sinervo CEO Falck Norway, Ola Aas Løwer ARC Manager

After commissioning and successful certification of the monitoring and alarm receiving centre, Falck Redning AS has invited interested parties, as insurers and Norwegian operators of control centres to a two-days workshop on site. On this occasion, VdS was able to present the essential requirements of the standard EN 50518 as well as the associated certification procedure. As a result of this workshop VdS recorded two new applications for certification in Norway and the planning of further discussions. This makes obvious that the expertise of highly qualified VdS staff is also of interest abroad. VdS is happy with a high demand of international activities also in the field of security service.

Batteries and fire hazards making their way into our buildings


Batteries are making their way into our buildings. Here, they collect energy from solar cells and provide us with smart energy consumption. However, they also constitute a fire hazard that is difficult to manage and, in actual fact, there are no regulations governing this area.

It makes good sense to store power. If you have solar cells on your roof, you can store energy during the day and use it in the evening and during the night. In particular, house-owners with solar cells installed under the new scheme which dictates that power from solar cells is used in the same hour as it is produced, can only sigh at such an opportunity. Not to mention the even greater potential in being able to store power from wind turbines which we currently export abroad for a pittance whenever the wind blows. This greater potential lies some way off in the future but solutions with large batteries for buildings, so-called power packs, are advancing at great speed – particularly in the USA.

The batteries will be installed in buildings where they will be used to store power from the solar panels on the building or to purchase power when prices are low – typically during the night when demand is low – to be used later when prices increase again. This phenomenon is called ‘peak shaving’, because you are shaving the top off the price of electricity, and there is the potential for saving large amounts of money.

However, installing such a large energy-storing component in a building is not necessarily without its problems. Especially not when the fire properties of the different types of batteries are largely unknown.

Explosions and flammable gas
There are many types of batteries that use different chemical components, all of which react differently to fire. One of the most commonly found types of battery is the lithium-ion battery that you see in various American power packs and also in the Tesla Powerwall. It has become popular because it is lightweight and is able to store a lot of energy in relation to its size. It also functions well when it is recharged and the power can be stored for longer periods without losing any voltage. And then, it reacts to heat.

– If a lithium-ion battery gets too hot, it will, at some point, experience ‘thermal runaway’, meaning, for example, that the electrolyte in the battery vaporises with the result that eventually the cell will no longer be able to contain the pressure. Many batteries have a safety mechanism in the form of ventilation if the pressure gets too high which prevents the battery exploding, explains Petra Andersson, who is a senior researcher in the Fire Research department at the SP Technical Research Institute of Sweden and who has carried out research into lithium-ion batteries and fire.

Regardless of whether the cell releases the vaporised electrolyte or explodes, the result is the immediate emission of highly flammable gas. This is because the vaporised electrolyte in lithium-ion batteries is combustible. It has more or less the same fire properties as propane, which you will be familiar with from the liquid gas in lighters.

Toxic gas and difficulty extinguishing
A battery can heat up if it is overcharged or used incorrectly. A Battery Management System (BMS) is intended to prevent this. However, it can also happen if a fire breaks out in a building in which a power pack has been installed. Different lithium-ion batteries have different electrolytes which react at different temperatures, but a battery temperature of around 100 degrees results in a risk of gas being emitted.

– If the gases from the battery escape when there is already a fire in the room, the gas is ignited immediately. If there is no source of ignition and the gas escapes from the batteries, it will accumulate as the individual cells, which make up large lithium-ion batteries release it, thus causing a bigger and more serious explosion, explains Petra Andersson.

A lithium-ion battery doesn’t just emit flammable gas when it gets hot or burns. Depending on the materials in the battery, it also releases large number of toxic gases, for example, hydrogen fluoride which, even in small doses, can be life-threatening.

And, as if flammable gas, the risk of explosion and toxic gas wasn’t enough, there is also the small detail in lithium-ion batteries that they are difficult to extinguish if they happen to catch fire. Tests from the USA show that even though a fire in a battery has apparently been put out, some cells in it can experience ‘thermal runaway’ and flare up again hours, days or even weeks after it has been extinguished. At the same time, thermal imaging of the battery will not show whether it will flare up again or not.

More research needed
As mentioned previously, different batteries have different fire properties. But, irrespective of which type of battery it is, there are no rules governing the set-up of batteries in the Danish Building Code or standards for how they are to be installed with fire safety in mind. This is because batteries in buildings are a new technology.

– As far as I am aware, no research has been conducted into how you fireproof buildings with batteries or how you approach batteries in a building with a view to extinguishing them if they catch fire. If the power pack technology starts to become more prevalent, there will be a real need for more research, explains Petra Andersson.

Research is necessary because, for example, different batteries react differently to, say, water. A lithium-ion battery can be extinguished using water in reasonable amounts. However, if you spray water on a lithium battery, there is a risk that the lithium mixed with the water can develop into the flammable gas, hydrogen. In the context of fire technology, it means that different batteries require different fire technology initiatives.

– There are a vast number of considerations in this area which require investigation and research. This is because it is simply unacceptable for us, as a society, are unable to do anything if, for example, a fire breaks out in a power pack installed in a block of flats, says Director for Customers & Relations in DBI, Ib Bertelsen, before continuing:

– At the moment, we know very little about how we should tackle this. It depends a lot on which type of battery you are talking about, whether it is a large system in an industrial set-up or a smaller system in a domestic set-up, and often customised solutions will be required. Some of the options you could consider for large power packs are, for example, aspiration smoke detection systems, which are extremely sensitive and take samples of the air at regular intervals in order to detect a fire, inert gas and, potentially, sprinkling. With regard to smaller power packs, the same could apply to BS-60 cabinets. However, there is a need for more knowledge and research in the area, he emphasises.