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BU Temporarily Prohibits Hoverboards

Fire danger prompts ban nationwide

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BU has banned hoverboards temporarily from all campus buildings following a spate of fires ignited nationally by the self-balancing scooters.

The prohibition will stay in effect indefinitely until the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and other agencies complete current investigations of the devices. The commission is investigating a minimum of 22 hoverboard fires in 17 states. BU joins at least 20 other schools that have enacted full or building-specific bans, the Chronicle of Higher Education reports.

Meanwhile, New York City has banned the devices in public places. All major US airlines, as well as dozens of international carriers, have banned them as well.

“While the likelihood of an incident is small, the consequences of a fire are serious,” especially in BU’s populous dormitories, says Gary Nicksa, senior vice president for operations.

He and Jean Morrison, Uiversity provost, approved the prohibition and emailed all faculty, staff, and students about it earlier this week.

For students who already have hoverboards on campus, Nicksa says, BU’s Environmental Health and Safety office “is making arrangements to safely store hoverboards until students can arrange to have them sent home.”

Two nearby schools, Emerson College and Boston College, have enacted bans. Other schools with full or building-specific prohibitions include George Washington University, American University, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Kean University, and the University of South Carolina, according to the Chronicle.

Hoverboards bursting into flame, like the one above in London, have prompted BU to ban the devices temporarily from all campus buildings. Photo courtesy the London Fire Brigade

Hoverboards bursting into flame, like the one above in London, have prompted BU to ban the devices temporarily from all campus buildings. Photo courtesy of the London Fire Brigade

Hoverboards were a hot-selling Christmas gift. The reported fires have been blamed on “counterfeit lithium-ion batteries sold in knock-off brands,” USA Today reports. In one New Jersey case, the battery pack exploded and burst into flames while the hoverboard was charging in a living room, spraying some of the batteries into the nearby kitchen.

The brand involved in that case, Smart Balance Wheel, reportedly has been involved in other fires; otherwise, federal officials have not identified the brands they’re investigating. The New Jersey hoverboard was purchased on Amazon, which has discontinued some brands and advised some British customers who bought devices with faulty plugs to discard the machines for a refund.

In other accidents, flames from a hoverboard destroyed a Louisiana home and another machine erupted as an Alabama man was piloting his hoverboard on a sidewalk. The CPSC has received 70 reports of injuries requiring trips to the emergency room, including falls unrelated to fires.

“While the fire hazard has generated significant attention, I do not want to downplay the fall hazard,” Elliot F. Kaye, CPSC chairman, said in a statement.

CPSC has received dozens of reports of injuries from hospital ERs that we have contracts with.…Some of these injuries have been serious, including concussions, fractures, contusions/abrasions, and internal organ injuries. Always wear a proper helmet and padding while using this product,” cautioned Kaye.

7 Comments
Rich Barlow

Rich Barlow can be reached at barlowr@bu.edu.

7 Comments on BU Temporarily Prohibits Hoverboards

  • Just another BU parent on 01.14.2016 at 10:42 am

    It is unfortunate this article is devoid of pertinent information. Judging from the information surrounding raid on a Chinese firm at CES 2016 last week by the Feds,it appears that the (American)inventor of the hoverboard knows what he’s doing, but the 60-70 (primarily foreign)companies who are building clones and not paying patent royalties, don’t. Researching the background behind this story would help BU Today to connect BU to a timely case study in entrepreneurship and technology transfer.

  • Marty McFly on 01.15.2016 at 3:35 pm

    Those abominations are not hoverboards! They’re nothing but trendy, hands-free segways obsessed with EDM. They should be banned for posing a hazard to common decency. Here’s to the hopeful realization one day of mass-produced boards that actually hover.

    • Jose Artigas on 01.15.2016 at 5:59 pm

      Good point, Marty, but your solution is simply to replace one trendy techno-gadget with another. That won’t address the growing public infatuation with whatever is the latest device on offer. The powers that be don’t have to worry about dissent or revolution when it’s so easy to distract people b/c a new phone’s always available.

      • Capt N. Obvious on 01.25.2016 at 4:41 pm

        I think you completely missed the joke. “Marty McFly” from back to the future, complaining that these aren’t real hoverboards. The joke being that they had “real” hoverboards in that movie that McFly used.

  • S on 01.17.2016 at 6:22 pm

    So the problem with these “hoverboards” is the batteries and improper battery chargers put in by Chinese companies. This is not a hoverboard problem, it’s a battery charging problem. I don’t see why banning a product because of the batteries is acceptable. They should instead not allow charging in university buildings. The same problem affects drones which also use Lithium Ion batteries and also come from China with improper chargers, but you don’t see the university banning drones.

    These hoverboards don’t spontaneously combust they catch fire when charged for too long. So I think it would be prudent to ban charging in university buildings.

    • Jose Artigas on 01.22.2016 at 7:14 pm

      This is a hoverboard problem because these batteries & chargers must be used. Allowing hoverboards but forbidding charging in dorms or other BU properties would create an enforcement nightmare, but still not protect the BU community. In the interest of safety, the devices must be banned altogether.

  • Vegan on 01.19.2016 at 4:50 pm

    As a person of lithium sensitivity I am highly sensitive to lithium and ion radiation from things with lithium batteries like hoverboards. Until the university bans everything with a lithium battery BU will not be a safe space for me and I will decide to keep feeling oppressed. Even my advisor does not understand when my lithium oppression turns on because an electric car went by showering me with lithium Ions and radiation and I have a panic attack and miss my film studies final.

    ‘~’ Posted from my iPad ‘~’

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