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Amid safety concerns, Northeastern bans indoor use and charging of hoverboards

Photo credit: Flickr, Ben Larcey/

In light of safety concerns, using or charging hoverboards inside Northeastern residence halls or other university-owned buildings is now prohibited, the university announced on Friday.

A message to the university community cited recent concerns from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission that certain models of hoverboards have been reported to catch fire during use and while being charged. The CPSC is investigating the cause of these fires, and is focusing on the components of the lithium ion battery packs and their interaction with the circuit boards inside the units.

Additionally, the university message noted, the commission has cautioned users about the risk of falls and has received dozens of reports of injuries, some serious.

What exactly are hoverboards?

Hoverboards, which are made by several brands, are two-wheeled, self-balancing scooters and don’t actually “hover.” They’ve been all the rage in recent months, with viral videos featuring everyone from parents to celebrities buzzing around on them—and falling off them. But safety concerns have restrictions on these scooters increasing nationwide, extending from city sidewalks, to university campuses, and even to some airlines. Amazon is going so far as to offer full refunds on any hoverboards sold on the site.

Why is Northeastern prohibiting hoverboards indoors?

Northeastern University Chief of Police Michael Davis emphasized that the university’s position on hoverboards isn’t a matter of arbitrarily banning a gadget that’s thought to be inherently unsafe. Rather, he said, it’s about having a reasonable policy around something that might present a safety hazard in residence halls and other campus buildings. In this case, Davis said, there are reports that hoverboards are not operating as they’re intended.

“When something like that happens, it should raise a flag to look at the appropriateness of its use on our campus,” Davis said.

Vice President for Student Affairs Madeleine Estabrook also underscored the importance of students’ safety.

“This is really about cautioning our students so they’re fully informed about the concerns that have been expressed by the Consumer Product Safety Commission and the incidents that have happened across the nation,” Estabrook said.

These boards are risky and should not be used

According to current data from the commission, these types of boards present a higher risk of possible fire and instability:

·       Boards with only one battery
·       Boards that do not carry the Underwriters Laboratories certification stickers

If your board matches this description, Northeastern recommends you consider not using it and removing it from campus until further investigation by the commission.

What are those UL certification stickers?

The Chairman of CPSC, Elliot F. Kaye, said in a statement Wednesday that while the safety consulting and certification company Underwriters Laboratories has announced that certain components of hoverboards, such as battery packs and power supplies, could be UL certified, there is no UL certification for the hoverboards themselves. Kaye added that the presence of a UL mark on hoverboards or their packaging “should not be an indication to consumers of the product’s safety. In fact, any such mark is at best misleading and may even be a sign of a counterfeit product.”

Are you a hoverboard owner? Here are some safety tips:

The following tips from the Consumer Product Safety Commission should help reduce the risk of an incident:

•           Do not charge a hoverboard when you are not able to observe the board (when you are away, asleep, or otherwise unable to be immediately attentive).
•           Charge and store in an open, dry area away from items or materials that can catch fire.
•           Do not overcharge the hoverboard.
•           Do not charge directly after riding. Let the device cool down for at least an hour before charging.
•           Use only the charger that came with the product. If the charger is not compatible with an outlet, return the product. Do not use a charging cord from any other device.
•           Do not ride near vehicular traffic.
•           Wear safety gear when using a hoverboard—a helmet, knee and elbow pads, and wrist guards for protection from falls.

Northeastern is continuing to monitor developments related to hoverboard use and safety, and will provide updates on further recommendations, restrictions, or university actions. If members of the Northeastern community have questions regarding their hoverboards, they can contact NUPD Fire Safety at 617-373-2121.

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