Hoverboards touch down in Bloomfield, Glen Ridge

BLOOMFIELD, NJ — The Bloomfield School District has banned hoverboards from school property. According to Superintendent Sal Goncalves, he informed his administrators Monday that the district was taking this step on the advice of the New Jersey Division of Fire Safety.

The Glen Ridge Superintendent of Schools Dirk Phillips said his district has not addressed the issue because thestudents are not bringing hoverboards to school.

A hoverboard is a two-wheel scooter device, powered by an electric motor which requires charging. The wheels of the board are beneath the rider, who is standing and balancing. The board can be steered with a hand-held mechanism or foot pressure. It has been reported that the motors of some hoverboards have spontaneously caught fire. Goncalves said the Bloomfield Board of Education will be taking action to include hoverboards in its policy.

The New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs announced Dec. 31 that the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission was investigating hoverboards for possible fire hazards.

“The CPSC launched its investigation amid nationwide reports that the self-balancing, wheeled scooters have exploded or burst into flames while in use or during the battery charging process,” the announcement said. “Two of those reported fires occurred in New Jersey.”

The chairman of the CPSC, Elliot Kaye, said there are currently no safety standards in place for hoverboards. A written inquiry, by The Independent Press, to the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission, through its website, received the response that hoverboards were not a MVC-related issue.

“We can only suggest that you contact your local municipality for any regulations they may have in place for these items,” a MVC spokesperson said.

Bloomfield Fire Official Sam Infante said the NJ Division of Fire Safety has recommended that the units be prohibited from Kean University and that Bloomfield College has already banned them.

“As no cause has been determined for the spontaneous combustion of these units,” Infante said, “I recommend everyone in possession be extra mindful of the danger. My suggestion is to never leave any unit charging unattended, and to keep them a safe distance from combustible materials such as fabrics, furniture or any confined space.”

Infante said the prohibition would be revisited once testing on defective units reveals the cause of the spontaneous combustions and explosions. But fire is not the only hazard. Injury is another.

According to Dr. Marjory Langer, the medical director of the emergency department at Mountainside Hospital, three patients were admitted on Christmas Eve because of spills from a hoverboard. Another injured person came in on Christmas Day.

“We’re seeing a lot of wrist injuries,” she said in a telephone interview earlier this week. “They tend to be significant fractures.”

And the injuries know no age restriction.
“We’re also seeing a handful of adults coming in who think they have great balance,” she said. “We saw a parent who

gave it a try and was pretty badly injured. And one adult patient had been drinking wine and wound up in E.R.”
So far, she said, there have been no hospital stays, just a lot of broken bones.

“The go pretty quick,” she said of the boards. “I’m getting calls from my friends.”
Langer said it is important to wear a helmet, knee pads, and wrist guards especially, when riding a hoverboard.
Hoverboards can also be a target of thefts. On Dec. 30, there was an attempted robbery of a hoverboard outside the Stop and Shop on Franklin Avenue in Bloomfield.

To ensure consumer safety, the CPSC advises:
• Do not charge a hoverboard overnight or when unable to observe the board.

• Charge and store in an open, dry area away from items that can catch fire.

• Do not charge directly after riding. Let the device cool for an hour before charging.

• If giving a hoverboard as a gift, leave it in its partially charged state. Do not take it out of the package to bring it to a full charge and then wrap it back up. Often, the product comes partially charged. Leave it in that state until it is ready to be used.

• Look for the mark of a certified national testing laboratory. While this does not rule out counterfeits, the absence of such a mark means your safety is likely not a priority for that manufacturer.

• Do not ride the hoverboard near any vehicular traffic.