How to Extinguish a Battery Fire
After the explosion of an iPhone inside an Apple Store, resulting in a few minor injuries, you might be wondering “Oh shit, how do I stop my smartphone/laptop/robot dog from burning my house down?” Instead of running for dear life, or dousing your device with spring water, here are the steps you should follow to properly extinguish a battery-related fire (and why you should save that Pellegrino as a last resort).
Smartphone Fire? Unplug It First
A smartphone battery fire is only made worse if that smartphone is drawing on another power source while it burns. When your battery starts to hiss or bulge, be sure to unplug it from whatever power source it’s connected to before you turn your attention to extinguishing.
Start With a Fire Extinguisher
Safety first means being prepared for emergencies like fires, caused by your smartphone’s self-immolating battery or otherwise. That means you’ll need a fire extinguisher, so add one to your shopping list. In terms of fire extinguishers, you should have one designed to put out Class B and Class C fires. Class B fires involve flammable liquids and gases, while Class C fires involve electrical equipment like motors and batteries. Your standard fire extinguisher, costing anywhere from $35 to $80, should be able to handle Class A, B, and C fires.
There are a variety of extinguishers available, but searching for a Class ABC extinguisher will yield one appropriate for dowsing your new Pixel 2. If you’re on a budget, you can snag smaller fire suppression canisters that are both cheaper (anywhere from $20 to $40) and smaller than a standard fire extinguisher.
Class D fire extinguishers are also available, but are designed to extinguish fires involving combustible metals. While you can certainly use one to put out your smartphone, a class D fire extinguisher’s high price tag might put it a bit out of your reach, so don’t bother spending the hundreds of dollars required to get one.
Water or Sand Works in a Pinch
Thanks to the chemical composition of smartphones powered by lithium batteries, there is always the chance that pouring water on a smartphone could cause a chemical reaction between the H2O and lithium metal, turning that hydrogen into fuel for the fire. Fortunately, most smartphone batteries have such little lithium the risk is pretty negligible.
Should you find yourself dealing with a smartphone fire armed only with a six-pack of seltzer, feel free to apply it liberally, and drown your smartphone until no more smoke is visible. Needless to say, your phone is toast. You can dispose of your charred battery by searching for a battery disposal location near you. If your iPhone decides to blow up at the beach, you can also cover it in sand or other non-flammable smothering agent like dirt. As with most things that burn, be sure to avoid inhaling the fumes from a smoking battery, as they’re toxic, carcinogenic, and just plain gross.