Face-to-face events return

The Queensland branch of the Society of Fire Safety (SFS) has kicked off 2023 with its first face-to-face seminar in three years.

Ferm Engineering CEO Steve Burton has been appointed SFS Qld chair and is a member of the national executive. The Qld committee now has 10 members, including two women.

The half-day seminar included Steve presenting on how to protect buildings and car parks from potential fires from lithium-ion batteries in electric vehicles (EVs) and bulk energy storage units. Lithium-ion batteries can potentially overheat because of their high energy density, which can cause a cell inside the battery to short circuit. Short-circuiting lithium-ion batteries can release flammable, toxic gases that may catch fire. They can also explode.

A fire triggers a chain reaction through other cells in the sealed battery unit called a thermal runaway, where temperatures can reach highs of 1500°C.

However, Steve said new fire detection and suppression systems are available and advanced battery technology generally makes fires rare.

“Unfortunately, the technology is being demonised. EVs are the safest cars. Only 25 in 100,000 EVs catch fire, compared with 1,500:100,000 for petrol-fuelled cars and 3,500:100,000 for hybrids,” he said, quoting American insurance industry statistics.

His advice is to always seek professional advice on EV technology.

Steve aims to build the Qld SFS membership, which is open to anyone with an interest in fire safety, not just engineers. SFS exists to foster excellence in fire safety in Australia and provide leadership in understanding, developing, practising and applying fire safety engineering.

To join SFS, create an account in the Engineers Australia member portal. Click on the products and services tab, then click Join on the Technical Society Membership tile and follow the prompts. Engineers Australia membership is not required to join SFS.