The Food and Drug Administration says battery-powered medical carts are to blame for a series of fires in facilities across the country, leading the agency to publish a warning letter recommending that all medical offices, including urgent care centers, take preventive measures. While the size of some carts makes their use prohibitive in many urgent care locations, larger centers, such as those that might be affiliated with a healthcare system, that use such systems are advised to take precautions. The rechargeable batteries that power the carts—along with their connected point-of-care devices and barcode scanners—are thought to be responsible for smoke conditions, fires, and even explosions. To make matters worse, fires of this nature are hard to extinguish. If one breaks out, do not attempt to put it out yourself; rather, unplug the charger or power off the cart, evacuate the center, and call 911 immediately. As far as those preventive measures go, the FDA recommends the following:
- Inspect batteries for signs of damage (eg, bulging, swelling, cracks); notify the manufacturer of damaged batteries.
- Vacuum to remove dust and lint around battery chargers and carts containing chargers.
- Replace batteries at manufacturer-recommended intervals.
- Ensure that all chargers are in easily visible areas, away from patient care areas and open sources of oxygen or other flammable materials.
- Do not install chargers or charging carts in confined spaces.
- Do not block charging station vents, or attach anything to a battery charger.