Westchester County is urging residents to give the gift of safety on Black Friday and throughout the holiday shopping season when purchasing items that require lithium ion batteries and the charging devices that go with them.

Damaged or poor-quality lithium ion batteries, and aftermarket chargers and cords, have been responsible for multiple deadly fires in New York and across the nation. Residents and businesses can reduce their risk of fire by using the lithium ion batteries and chargers that were designed by the manufacturer for its specific product.

“Mixing and matching lithium ion batteries, chargers or cords is literally a recipe for disaster,” County Executive George Latimer said. “Using the correct battery and charging devices is the law in Westchester and essential to keeping our residents safe.”

Consumers should purchase products that have been tested and certified by a nationally recognized testing laboratory (such as Underwriters Laboratories).

Commissioner Richard G. Wishnie of the Department of Emergency Services said that lithium ion batteries can be found in a wide range of consumer products. These include items that are likely to be popular this holiday gift-giving season:

  • Cell phone portable power banks;
  • Drones;
  • Ride-on electric toy vehicles;
  • E-scooters and E-bikes.

Douglas Stiller, chief of special operations at the Department of Emergency Services, said DES personnel have responded to fires caused by all the devices listed above. Fires have also been caused by batteries in hover boards, cordless vacuums and lawnmowers, vaping devices, laptops and cell phones.

Stiller noted that an online search he recently conducted revealed a growing range of toys that are now powered by lithium ion batteries.

“Due to the larger amounts of energy being stored, these batteries have a lower tolerance for abuse, such as being dropped or stepped on. People should be aware of this, particularly when the toys are being used by younger children,” he said.

Latimer noted that Westchester has been a leader in stressing lithium ion battery safety – all with the goal of keeping people safe.

Legislation created by the County Executive, and recently passed into law by the Board of Legislators, requires point-of-sale safety warnings where e-bikes and other electric mobility devices are sold; provides safe disposal options for old/damaged batteries; and enhances firefighter training and public education efforts. Westchester also requires that devices meet UL safety standards, and prohibits the sale of re-assembled or damaged batteries.

DES personnel offered the following lithium ion battery safety tips:

  • Do not charge any device under a pillow, on a bed, or on a couch or arm chair;
  • Keep batteries at room temperature and avoid placing them in direct sunlight or in a hot car;
  • Store batteries away from anything flammable;
  • Do not leave batteries and devices unattended when charging;
  • Only use the battery and charging cord that came with the device.
  • Replace and safely dispose of any battery that changes shape, sparks, or emits unusual sounds.

Residents can bring lithium-ion batteries, damaged or otherwise ready for disposal, to the H-MRF in Valhalla. Residents outside the Refuse Disposal District (Bedford, Lewisboro, New Castle, North Castle, North Salem, Pound Ridge and Somers), may incur a fee associated with handling and/or disposal. New York State also offers an extended producer responsibility program for non-mobility batteries under 25 pounds administered by Call2Recycle. Residents can contact Call2Recycle to find a drop-off location near them.

Some manufacturers handle lithium-ion battery disposal directly. Residents may consider contacting the manufacturer of the battery or product for safe disposal options.

Certain brands of lithium-ion batteries used for e-bikes can be brought to a local e-bike retailer for handling.

Other tips:

  • When transporting lithium-ion batteries that are damaged, residents should take care to package them for transport and may place them in sand or kitty litter.
  • Extra-large lithium-ion batteries, such as those used for electric vehicles, are not accepted at the H-MRF. Residents should contact the manufacturer for safe disposal options of these batteries.
  • Residents should contact the local fire department if there is a thermal event (sparking or fire) from a lithium-ion battery. Fire departments are trained to respond to these events and secure the battery to prevent re-ignition of the battery.