Battery Safety Tips for Travelers

PHMSA Launches SafeTravel Initiative

Yes, it’s safe to bring batteries and battery-powered devices on board passenger aircraft, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) – as long as you take a few simple precautions. DOT’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) wants to let everyone know what those precautions are.

“Americans increasingly own – and travel with – portable telephones, computers, cameras, camcorders, entertainment devices, and medical equipment – even cordless power tools,” stated PHMSA Chief Safety Officer Stacey Gerard.

“Batteries are becoming more and more powerful, using more and more varied technologies, to provide longer life for the devices an ordinary traveler may carry today. Laptop computers, camcorders, DVD players, and other modern conveniences demand that battery power, but the extra power means potential risk,” Gerard said.

“Portable battery-powered devices and batteries are safe for transportation when packed properly. But they must be handled and packaged appropriately.”

PHMSA is bringing this message to travelers through a coordinated media and stakeholder outreach campaign called SafeTravel, which aims to raise battery safety awareness among travelers nationwide.

“PHMSA doesn’t want to ban your MP3-player, video camera or laptop from commercial flights. We want you to understand how to carry your battery-powered devices, and your spare batteries, safely,” Gerard said.

Working with a broad coalition of other government agencies, individual companies, trade associations, and other stakeholders, PHMSA has developed a variety of educational SafeTravel materials. Printed guides explain safe travel with batteries. A web page,, presents tips to the traveler describing a variety of battery safety solutions, covering everything from safely packaging batteries (do keep them in a device, don’t put them in checked baggage,) to what to do about loose batteries (protect the battery’s metallic connections, or terminals.)

PHMSA recommends the following steps to minimize the hazards of flying with batteries and battery-powered

Keep batteries in devices

  • Leave batteries in your equipment – it is the safest place. Batteries pose little risk when contained in the devices they power.

Pack for safety

  • Keep spare batteries in the store packaging they came in. If you do not have the store packaging, tape across the battery’s metal parts (terminals), or place each battery in its own protective case, plastic bag, or package.
  • Be sure to keep all loose batteries away from metal objects, such as coins, keys, or jewelry.
  • If you must carry a battery-powered device in any baggage, package it to prevent inadvertent activation. For instance, you should pack a cordless power tool in a protective case, with a trigger lock engaged.

Carry them with you

  • Carry your laptop, cell phone, electronic devices, and spare batteries with you. Do not put them in checked luggage if it can be avoided.
  • Battery-related incidents are more easily detected and handled by the flight crew if the battery is located within the passenger cabin.

Handle with care

  • Never use or carry damaged or recalled batteries or devices. Check battery recall information at the manufacturer’s website, or at the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s website (
  • Prevent crushing, puncturing, or putting a high degree of pressure on any battery.
  • Avoid dropping laptop computers or other devices to prevent battery damage.

Ensure quality and compatibility

  • Purchase batteries only from reliable sources.
  • Use only chargers designed for your type of batteries. If unsure about compatibility, contact the manufacturer. Don’t mix and match!
  • Never try to charge non-rechargeable batteries.

“We’re trying to reach the traveler to help prevent a fire or other incident from happening either in the air, or on the ground, either awaiting takeoff or after touchdown.”

And if an incident does occur?

“Immediately alert the flight crew. Let the flight crew handle the incident.”

PHMSA is joined in the SafeTravel campaign by the Federal Aviation Administration, the Transportation Security Administration of the Department of Homeland Security, the National Transportation Safety Board, the Portable Rechargeable Battery Association, the National Electronics Manufacturers Association, Underwriters Laboratories, Air Transport Association, Air Line Pilots Association, U.S. Postal Service, and the National Association of State Fire Marshals. Manufacturers of battery-powered devices are also partnering with PHMSA in the effort, including Panasonic, IBM, Hewlett Packard, and Black and Decker.

For more information, visit the SafeTravel website at //, or call PHMSA’s Hazardous Materials Info-Line at 1-800-467-4922.



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