UO Fire Marshal bans hoverboards from campus buildings

Hoverboards, the hands-free two-wheeled motorized scooters, are being banned from college campuses across the country. The University of Oregon banned the devices on Jan. 25 by adopting an emergency policy that went into effect the day it was announced. President Michael Schill approved the policy on Jan. 20. The policy bans the devices from all campus buildings, including residence halls.

Hoverboard riders are not only banned from riding the boards, but from possessing them in a building. The boards can be used on campus in outside areas, the university confirmed, but they cannot be brought inside, making it difficult for students to ride them to class. The university views the boards as an extreme fire concern.

“The concern was raised by the fire marshal due to reports of fires related to the lithium ion batteries used in the devices,” Enterprise Risk Services Communications Director Julie Brown said.

Videos of the boards catching fire through seemingly spontaneous combustion have been spreading across social media like wildfire, a spark that caused the Consumer Product Safety Commission to issue a statement warning consumers about the dangers of the product.

Lithium ion batteries are used in smart phones, tablets and laptops, but their use in a moving device -one that gets knocked around with natural use- adds an element of danger.

The inside of these batteries are liquid, with a positive side and a negative side separated by a thin sheet of metal. If that metal is punctured slightly, exposing the liquids to each other, it can cause the batteries to overheat almost instantly. While a rough hit may be the cause of the puncture, the high rates of explosions in hoverboards specifically, and often while the devices are charging, point toward defective batteries caused by cheap production. But even smart phones took some heat in 2004, when dozens of reports came in of cell phone batteries exploding.

On the UO campus, violating the policy is not a criminal offense, but can cause the perpetrator to be removed from campus or fined. “The guidance is similar to the policy on skateboards and rollerskates,” said Julie Brown. The “no skateboard and rollerskates” policy states that any building manager, dean or security officer can force violators off campus. Since the hoverboard policy was enacted as an emergency, there is no language detailing the repercussions of violating the policy.

Since hoverboards were banned immediately from all residence halls, the university has offered a, fireproof storage facility for them while students find a permanent area to store them. “Our fire marshal worked with housing to make a secure storage facility available to students who may need to wait to permanently relocate the device,” Brown said.

Either there aren’t any hoverboards in the dorms, or students aren’t taking the ban very seriously. “No one has transferred a hoverboard into the storage area,” Brown said. “It’s an empty storage room.”

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Noah McGraw

Noah McGraw

Noah is the 2016-17 Senior News Editor at the Emerald. His earliest journalistic influences were Tom Wolfe, Eric Schlosser and Batman. He loves '70s comics, '80s action movies and '90s music.