How to safely contain a tablet fire
Lithium-ion batteries are modern miracles: they provide enough power for an iPad to run for 6+ hours, they charge quickly and are lightweight. It’s not a stretch to say the electronic flight bag revolution could not have happened without them. But while the safety record of lithium-ion batteries is remarkably good considering how many of them are in circulation, fires and explosions do happen. The FAA has published reports for over 50 such incidents in the last year alone.
Unfortunately, lithium-ion battery fires are different from most other types because they do not need oxygen to burn. If it’s caused by a short, the battery can enter thermal runaway and may even explode. Even worse, traditional Halon fire extinguishers are not very effective on such fires. Watch the video below for an example of just how dramatic a lithium ion battery fire can be.
As a result of this threat, many airlines and corporate flight departments require pilots to carry fire containment systems on all flights. After all, in a pressurized airplane at 37,000 feet, you can’t exactly throw the tablet out the window. While these systems work very well, they have been far too heavy and expensive for general aviation pilots to consider – costing well over $3,000 in some cases.
Fortunately, there’s a new option that is both portable and far less expensive. Two sizes of fire containment bag are available, one for tablets/phones and one for laptops. Each has a multi-layer construction: the carbon layer prevents fire, and will withstand 3000 degree Fahrenheit temperatures, while a separate Kevlar layer prevents projectiles from injuring pilots and passengers in case of an explosion. A pair of fire resistant gloves is included for handling the bag, making this a complete system. In the event of a tablet fire, just place the device in the bag and close the flap.
The bags are made with FAA-approved materials (in accordance with FAR Part 25.853) and have been tested extensively. There’s also a free replacement guarantee for life – if the bag is used to contain a fire, a new bag will be sent out free of charge.
At $495, the Tablet Fire Containment Bag certainly isn’t cheap, but it’s dramatically less expensive than most other systems we’ve seen. It measures 14″w x 10″h x 2″d and can be rolled up for storage. A larger bag is available for laptop computers, which measures 14″w x 17″h x 2″d and costs $595.
Has anyone used one of these in the cockpit to contain a fire/explosion? I’m interested in how you get the tablet into the bag in a timely manner once it catches on fire.
Fast. Very, very fast. Make it part of your emergency checklist and practice.