31 injured in 36 residential fires involving PMDs, e-bikes this year: SCDF

SINGAPORE - Thirty-one people were injured in 36 residential fires involving personal mobility devices (PMDs) and power-assisted bicycles (PABs) in the first half of this year, up from 11 injured out of 23 such fires in the same period last year.

Disclosing these figures in a Facebook post on Friday night (July 26), the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) said 54 reported fires involved these devices, more than double last year's figure of 24.

Most of these fires involved lithium ion batteries, and occurred during charging or shortly after charging, said SCDF.

Notwithstanding the concern with these fires, however, the overall fire situation in Singapore remains safe and the number of fire incidents remains stable, said SCDF.

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"PAB and PMD fires continue to form a small percentage of the total number of fire incidents, with 2,231 fire incidents in the first half of this year," said SCDF.

Such PMD and PAB-linked fires have been on an upward trend in recent years.

Last year, there were 74 such fires, up from 49 in 2017 and 31 in 2016. There were no details publicly available on the number of people injured in these incidents.

Experts said fires are likely to be the result of overcharging poor quality or modified batteries, or by using substandard or non-compatible chargers bought from dodgy retailers.

In the light of the recent fire incidents, the Land Transport Authority said on Tuesday evening that it was reviewing whether to bring forward a ban on all PMDs which do not have a specific safety certification known as the UL2272.

The UL2272 certification process looks at the fire and electrical safety of PMDs, and since the start of this month, retailers can only sell UL2272 certified PMDs.

However, riders who had registered their non-UL2272 PMDs before July currently have till Dec 31, 2020, to continue riding the PMDs on public paths.

MPs told The Straits Times that residents have been increasingly worried about the safety of PMDs, especially those who live with or near one.

Mr Desmond Choo, an MP for Tampines GRC, noted that with greater prevalence of people using PMDs, there is a need to "step up on educating and spreading awareness on allowed certified PMDs that are safe to use".

Nee Soon GRC MP Lee Bee Wah said: "While the policy response is being debated, including at the next Parliament session, I would advise residents with such concerns to install smoke detectors and purchase fire insurance."

In response to queries from The Straits Times, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Home Affairs Sun Xueling urged PMD users to take the usual necessary precautions, such as by not modifying their devices and ensure they are not charged for prolonged periods or overnight.

This article was first published in The Straits Times. Permission required for reproduction.