Last December the Food and Drug Administratio (FDA) released ‘Potential Problems with Battery-Powered Mobile Medical Carts in Health Care Facilities that May Result in Fire: Letter to Health Care Professionals'.The extent of the problems and the danger they pose are summed up pretty well in these two paragraphs from the letter:
“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.
In addition, lithium battery fires are very difficult to extinguish. In several reports, firefighters had to bury mobile medical cart batteries to extinguish a fire.”
The LiFePO4 difference
The FDA letter offers recommendations and best practices for minimizing the risk of your powered carts overheating, smoking or catching fire. Jaco would like to offer another recommendation: Choose carts powered with lithium iron phosphate (LiFePO4) batteries.
Batteries overheat, smoke or combust due to thermal runaway, a condition in which an increase in temperature leads to a situation that causes a further increase in temperature.
Thermal runaway occurs in supernovae. Here on Earth, it has occurred in electronic hoverboards and in certain smartphones you can no longer take on airplanes. Thermal runaway can occur several types of lithium batteries used in medical devices today. But LiFePO4 batteries withstand high temperatures and are not prone to thermal runaway:
*Data from BatteryUniversity.com
**Commonly used in laptops, tablets and mobile phones
Because nurse and patient safety is our top priority, Jaco uses only LiFePO4 batteries in our rechargeable and hot-swap powered carts. Unlike many cart manufacturers that continue to use other lithium battery chemistries, Jaco switched to LiFePO4 batteries in 2011, and we’ve never looked back.
Longer lasting and faster charging, too
LiFePO4 batteries also offer bottom-line benefits. Jaco’s rechargeable on-board LiFePO4 power system, available on our UltraLite 500 and Jaco One series carts, has proven extremely reliable over time; our customer service records indicate 99.9% reliability year to year. Our warrantied battery cycle life – 4,000+ cycles – is 65-75% longer than that of many li-ion cells, which can mean projected 10-year savings of hundreds of thousands of dollars for customers with large powered cart fleets.
Jaco was the first to use LiFePO4 for hot-swap power – because in addition to superior safety and long battery life, LiFePO4 allows faster charging, which is particularly desirable for hot-swap systems. Our new, improved POWER BLADE Super Charger 2.0 charges Jaco POWER BLADE LiFePO4 hot-swappable batteries in just 2 hours or less.
More good practice guidelines
Once you make the smart decision to choose LiFePO4 power, you should still observe the following best practices for getting the safest, longest and most reliable performance from your power system:
- Never allow liquids near the on-cart power system, or near hot-swap batteries or chargers
- Observe all manufacturer safety recommendations
- Periodically check that the power system is functioning properly, and report any problems to your manufacturer.
Tom Bagley is Vice President of Engineering at Jaco, Inc.