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Battery-powered Mobile Medical Carts – Fire Risks

Battery-powered Mobile Medical Carts – Fire Risks

The FDA is warning health care organizations of potential safety risks associated with battery-powered mobile medical carts. The FDA is aware of reports of explosion, fires, smoking, or overheating of equipment that required hospital evacuations associated with the batteries in these carts.

Battery-powered mobile medical carts include crash carts, medication dispensing carts, and carts that carry and power medical devices for point of care, barcode scanners, and patient monitoring. These carts typically have high capacity lithium or lead acid batteries that can power medical devices and workstations (computers) for many hours.

The FDA has received medical device reports of hospital fires and other health hazards associated with batteries used in mobile medical carts and their chargers. These events, which range from smoke production and overheating to equipment fires and explosion, can occur with lithium, lead acid, and other types of batteries. Such hazards may result in equipment and facility damage, hospital evacuation or patient and staff injury.  According to the FDA, lithium battery fires are very difficult to extinguish. In several reports, firefighters had to bury mobile medical cart batteries to extinguish a fire.

FDA recommendations are as follows:

PREVENTIVE MAINTENANCE OF BATTERY-POWERED MOBILE MEDICAL CARTS

  • Inspect batteries for signs of damage, including bulging, swelling, or cracks.
  • Notify the manufacturer of damaged batteries.
  • Inspect battery chargers and carts containing chargers for overheating components.
  • Vacuum to remove dust and lint around battery chargers and carts containing chargers.
  • Do not use batteries that do not charge properly. Ensure that batteries are replaced at the manufacturer recommended replacement intervals.
  • Conduct a survey of battery charger locations, and verify that all chargers are located in easily visible, fire retardant locations away from patient care areas and open sources of oxygen.
  • Do not install chargers or charging carts in confined spaces.
  • Keep flammable and explosive objects away from battery chargers and charging carts.
  • Request preventative maintenance documentation from the cart manufacturer for the health care facility to use.

IF A BATTERY IN A MOBILE MEDICAL CART CATCHES FIRE WHILE CHARGING OR IN USE

  • Immediately report the fire according to your hospital protocol. Follow hospital protocol for addressing a Class C electric fire
  • Do not touch the battery.
  • Unplug the charger or power off the cart if it is safe to do so.
  • Remove the cart from patient and visitor areas, as safely as possible.

GENERAL RECOMMENDATIONS FOR BATTERY-POWERED MOBILE MEDICAL CARTS

  • Do not block any charging station vents.
  • Do not tape or attach any object or material to a battery charger.
  • Only operate and store the battery charger and cart with charger outside of patient rooms and in non-patient care areas.
  • Contact the manufacturer if there is a problem with any component of this system. This alerts the manufacturer of a potential product concern.
  • Request maintenance and user manuals for the carts, chargers, batteries, and all accessories.
  • Before purchasing these carts, establish the necessary criteria, that meets your facility needs:
    • Meets battery standards for use in a hospital environment
    • Preventative and maintenance documents to be supplied to facilities
    • Contact manufacturer support with all questions

REPORTING PROBLEMS TO THE FDA

Prompt reporting of adverse events can help the FDA identify and better understand the risks associated with medical devices.

If you experience adverse events we encourage you to file a voluntary report through MedWatch, the FDA’s Safety Information and Adverse Event Reporting Program. Provide the following information, if available:

  • How was the cart or battery charger being used at the time of the event
  • Any patient, staff, or visitor injuries and or any actions taken by the facility
  • What type of event occurred, i.e., explosion, fire, smoke
  • Any cart identifiers, i.e., manufacturer name, model number
  • Any action taken by the cart system manufacturer and your facility.

As a reminder, healthcare staff employed by facilities that are subject to the FDA’s user facility reporting requirements should follow the reporting procedures established by their facilities.

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