Inconspicuous firebugs

Fire risk in the recycling industry due to rechargeable batteries and batteries

New and extremely powerful battery storage devices accompany our lives like an invisible shadow – whether on the road on e-scooters, in smartphones and tablets, or at home in vacuum robots; the reliable operation of such devices is often only made possible by modern lithium battery technology. Batteries are becoming more powerful, more compact and the energy density is increasing, but disposal (Fig. 1) poses risks.

If high-energy electricity storage devices enter the recycling circuit unnoticed, there is a risk of fires that are difficult to extinguish and spread rapidly. Lithium fires also present special firefighting challenges. Insuring against this fire risk is not always easy or possible, and if it is, it usually involves high costs and a high deductible.

As long as the endangered areas can always be kept in view (Fig. 2), and risk management takes effect, even battery fires can be successfully fought by trained personnel. The danger is greatest at night or in unsupervised areas. Fire sources can spread rapidly and precautions must be taken when fighting fires.

Defective accumulators and batteries release strong temperature rises (so-called „thermal runaway“) and flammable vapors even before the fire stage. Extinguishing the fire with water can produce dangerous hydrogen/oxygen compounds that are prone to explosion. Sand or extinguishing gases make it difficult to reach the often hidden source of the fire. The aim is therefore to detect the developing fire as early as possible, even before the flashover.

For more than 20 years, Reif GmbH has been assisting customers in the recycling industry and developing suitable safety concepts. As a high-performance partner, the company implements measures ranging from planning and installation to maintenance and repair.

Although fires cannot be prevented in the upstream goods receiving process (Fig. 3), thermographic sensors (fire detection through the detection of heat development) and special smoke aspiration systems detect trouble spots at an early stage and there is a realistic chance of preventing the spread of fire. In addition, the use of high-quality video surveillance technology allows the process and the initiation of intervention measures to be reliably coordinated. Employees, plants and raw materials can thus be reliably safeguarded and recycling plants remain operational.

As a family-run, medium-sized company, Reif GmbH has acquired extensive know-how over the past 25 years and looks after numerous satisfied customers (Fig. 4), mainly in southern Germany but also nationwide and in neighboring countries. Recycling companies have been part of the company‘s clientele from the very beginning and many individual solutions in all areas of recycling have already been fulfilled.

In addition to fire alarm systems, Reif GmbH plans, installs and maintains security technology systems such as video surveillance systems, burglar alarm systems, time recording and access control systems as well as biometric systems. Reif GmbH is also the right contact for locking systems and safes. The innovative and individual solutions are scalable and can be adapted exactly to the clients' needs.


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