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Another Battery Fire in AT&T's Network 48

Posted by CowboyNeal
from the hot-stuff dept.
An anonymous reader writes "AT&T has disclosed another fire started by one of the 17,000 Avestor batteries in its broadband network. The first fire caused a violent explosion in suburban Houston. This second incident occurred just 20 miles away."
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Another Battery Fire in AT&T's Network

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  • I can't imagine if one of these went off in say, northern El Cajon California. There would probably be a huge brush fire at least, all it takes is one spark to hit that bone-dry foliage. Does anyone know if these batteries are installed all over or just in TX?
  • Wow (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Durrok (912509) <calltechsucksNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Saturday August 25, 2007 @09:23AM (#20353259) Homepage Journal
    From TFA: "Outside of these two incidents, there have been no similar incidents involving these batteries," AT&T's spokesman writes via email.

    Anyone else read ".... YET" in that sentence. I'm hoping they are doing further testing in whatever conditions these batteries were in that made them explode. TFA did not mention anything but then again it is light reading.
    • "Anyone else read ".... YET" in that sentence"

      Yes, I did, take the quote from the bigwig:

      "the battery design was sound, as were the safety features," and concluded that "the risk of hazardous failures with this battery is as low, if not lower, than the risk with alternative batteries, which are used by other telecommunications and cable companies in similar applications."

      IF the battery design was sound, why did 2 of them start fires?

      • by Monoliath (738369)
        Just wait for it, the word of the decade (terrorism) is going to come up in just a matter of time...you watch.
        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by gratemyl (1074573) *
          Don't be silly - nobody would make an unreasonable conclusion that this was a terrorist attack - after all, everybody knows that Al Qaeda planned this attack so carefully that nobody would notice.
      • by Durrok (912509)
        Well it's hard to say, many electric devices can start fires/malfunction if treated incorrectly. Were they exposed to water? Intense heat? Corrosive chemicals? If the situation for those two batteries was far beyond the norm of use then it's not necessary to replace all the batteries, just to post notice or possibly move the boxes to a better location (Which would be a lot more work then just replacing the batteries I'm sure). I'm not saying they should go recall all of these immediately but I really hope t
        • Maybe I am just pessimistic, but the fact that the bigwigs do not explain the circumstances behind the fires makes me unsettled. Sure, there could be a natural explanation (Summer heat + some unfortunate other circumstance) or misuse, but what troubles me is that the bigwig said the batteries were safe without a full investigation.

          Now maybe this is for legal reasons, but at the very least they should explain why this happened and how to prevent it from happening again. Or if the batteries are indeed safe,
        • Re:Wow (Score:5, Insightful)

          by grumling (94709) on Saturday August 25, 2007 @10:33AM (#20353565) Homepage
          If they were within 20 miles of each other, I'd look at the other ones nearby and find out who installed them. Maybe the contractor needs a little more training, maybe they got a bad batch of batteries.

          It is likely they were installed by the same group of people (person?), and if they (he) didn't know what he was doing, it may very well happen again. It is also likely the batteries were all part of the same batch.
          • by maeka (518272)

            If they were within 20 miles of each other, I'd look at the other ones nearby and find out who installed them. Maybe the contractor needs a little more training, maybe they got a bad batch of batteries.


            It also should be noted that (depending on your source) Houston, TX is the second hottest city in the United States, when looking at daily mean.
            • by Anonymous Coward

              Houston, TX is the second hottest city in the United States, when looking at daily mean.
              What about when you look at women?
          • I would suspect that heat has something to do with the failures. Houston is pretty hot.
          • It is also likely the batteries were all part of the same batch.

            Yes, I understand that Avestor made some twenty thousand of the things before going bankrupt.
        • Were they exposed to intense heat?
          Well, they were in Houston after all.
        • Were these batteries exposed to water? Maybe--there has been a lot of rain in the Southern Plains this year. Tropical Storm Erin just passed through, but there was enough rain before that.
          Were they exposed to heat? Yes. It's been a very hot summer this year, or at least this month, in the Southern Plains when it hasn't been raining. Nineties or 100s(Fahrenheit).
          Corrosive chemicals? Probably not. But these batteries are li-poly! They can explode without help from other chemicals.
      • I think it definitely needs to be investigated. Two batteries in 17,000 randomly failing is one thing (and probably not a bad rate, assuming none of the other 17,000 only failed), but starting fires is another issue altogether.
  • Of course, when the hottest thing you have to offer your customers is an actual fire it's not quite the same.
  • by phoenixwade (997892) on Saturday August 25, 2007 @09:42AM (#20353357)

    The two batteries referred to were housed in two different VRAD cabinets, 20 miles apart, in the same city within a few months of each other. But, the carrier says, apart from those two batteries, all else is well. In its statement, published earlier today, AT&T said "the battery design was sound, as were the safety features," and concluded that "the risk of hazardous failures with this battery is as low, if not lower, than the risk with alternative batteries, which are used by other telecommunications and cable companies in similar applications."
    Really? the ubiquitous SLA has the same track record? What a crock 'o poopie. Another one of those "I think I'll pull statistics out of my ass and spout them off" moments....

    What I can't figure out is why they aren't using SLA's in those cabinets in the first place. They are, by far, the most common battery in use in almost every application. The advantage is that SLA's are safe, predictable and cheap. The disadvantages are volume and weight, but in a stationary cabinet that shouldn't make a difference.
  • by LWolenczak (10527) <julia@evilcow.org> on Saturday August 25, 2007 @09:42AM (#20353359) Homepage Journal
    It really doesn't surprise me. Sealed cell VRLA Battery + High Temperatures (Summer) + Hydrogen creation inside battery from the Water/Acid mix + brown out causing battery to be utilized = practical bomb. I had one cook off in a generator this week. One of my data center generators went to start up for its weekly exercise this week and it never started, but one of the batteries exploded. It didn't lead to a fire, but I'm sure it would have if it was in a more confined space.
    • by SigILL (6475)

      Sealed cell VRLA Battery

      Er, read the article (again). They're Lithium Polymer (LiPo) batteries. Remember those exploding Lithium-Ion laptop batteries a couple of months ago? These are even more dangerous. This [youtube.com] should give you an idea... and that's a small one.
      • by LWolenczak (10527)
        Whoops, I have been corrected. I would have assumed VRLA given thats the standard, at least inside central offices and DC powered data centers. If its a lithium battery, then they are just plum overcharging it.
        • by LWolenczak (10527)
          FWIW anyway, there is a similar risk with wet cell batteries, but they are not small, and they are typically monitored very closely. Most rooms I've seen wet cells in have hydrogen sensors and ventilation.
  • And you might end up with a little problem.

    http://www.askthepilot.com/upsfire.html [askthepilot.com]

    Story that explains the picture:
    http://www.salon.com/tech/col/smith/2006/09/22/ask thepilot202/print.html [salon.com]

    Granted, Smith is a pilot, not an engineer, but he gives a somewhat good explanation of thermal runaway.
  • Verizon's FIOS is in my area. I won't subscribe because I hate Verizon with a passion, but I've got photos of their cabinets and they look nothing like at&t's cabinets.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/kd1s/553921527/in/set -72157594534810671/ [flickr.com]
  • Aventes has filed for bankruptcy:

    http://www.greencarcongress.com/2006/11/avestor_sh uts_d.html [greencarcongress.com]

    Avestor, the Canadian developer of Lithium-Metal-Polymer (LMP) battery technology, is shutting down. The company filed with the Office of the Superintendent of Bankruptcy in Montréal with a view to making a Proposal to its creditors on 31 October.

    In August, the company had produced and shipped its 20,000th battery. At that time, Avestor said it had signed multimillion dollar, multiyear contracts with ma

  • yep

    http://www.greencarcongress.com/2006/11/avestor_sh uts_d.html [greencarcongress.com]

    our telecom outfit had ship issue after ship issue and RMA issue after RMA issue, before we finally got a tech advisory that the vendor was shyt outta luck, and use sealed lead-acid for field replacements.

    which will probably improve reliability immensely.

    if you have any, seriously consider replacing them with non-incendiary technology.
  • Wake up take your head out of your ass and buy Flywheel batteries. Caterpillar sells them for god sakes. No maintenance, rapid charge and discharge, and so reliable that you can send them into space at 10,000 USD per pound to orbit.

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