From 9-Volts to a House Fire

The threat of fires is a serious one. According to the National Fire Protection Association, in 2013, there were 1,240,000 fires reported in the US. These fires caused 3,240 civilian deaths, 15,925 civilian injuries, and $11.5 billion in total property damage. Also in 2013, a fire department responded to a fire every 25 seconds, and one structure fire was reported every 65 seconds.

HIDDEN TROUBLE
A 9-volt battery has both negative and positive terminals located closely together on one end. Thus, it’s fairly easy to short across those terminals. When these batteries aren’t disposed of appropriately, such as when they are stashed away in kitchen junk drawers, the chances of them rubbing together or with other flammable items can increase.

Think of what’s in your junk drawers – perhaps spare keys, paper clips, eye glass cleaner, coins, pens, or even a random piece of metal, such as a chain or nail. These items can rub against a 9-volt battery, and the rest is history. Even worse offenders are steel wool pads (such as Brillo) and aluminum foil.

It’s not just the junk drawers that are the problem; it’s also the trash can. Even a weak charge on a presumably dead 9-volt can ignite when it comes into contact with other metal items that have also been discarded.

BEING MINDFUL IS KEY
Staying fire-free in your home is a matter of making sure you take the time to think about where and how you store and dispose of batteries:

  • Don’t toss batteries in your dumpster or drawers. Take them to a collection site for household hazardous waste.
  • If you can’t go, call your local recycling company and ask for them to be picked up.
  • If you must absolutely pitch batteries in the trash, cover the positive and negative posts with masking tape beforehand.
  • Don’t store 9-volts in a Ziploc sandwich bag with other kinds of batteries in it.
  • Keep batteries in their original packaging whenever possible and leave on the plastic caps that are often fitted over battery terminals.  
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