Just when you get used to purging all the liquids from your carry-on luggage, it turns out there’s another everyday threat lurking in our flying habits: batteries. Web workers, of course, are a major source of this problem: step on to a plane with your laptop, cel phone, iPod, digital camera, Blackberry, and other electronics and spare batteries, and you might have a dozen or more of those little energy pods scattered about your person and carry-on luggage.
So what’s the problem? According to the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration of the Department of Transportation, there have been multiple incidents of improperly-packed batteries overheating and even catching fire in carry-on and checked luggage. So far alert cabin and ground staff have averted any disasters, but in the interest of safety, the PHMSA has some guidelines to follow:
- Keep batteries installed in their devices if possible
- Pack spare batteries in carry-on baggage (not checked)
- Keep spare batteries in their original retail packaging
- If original packaging is not available, pack batteries in individual plastic bags, or cover the terminals with electrical tape
- Do not carry recalled, counterfeit, or damaged batteries
- Pack battery-powered devices in such a way that they can’t be switched on in your baggage
All good, common-sense advice, one would think. Still, if I’d been one of the passengers on the flight out of JFK in February that had to turn around because of a battery-related fire in an overhead compartment, knowing that someone else had lacked common sense would have been little comfort. The next time you fly with your gadgets, take the few minutes to make sure that you don’t become part of the problem.