University bans hoverboards amid safety concerns

Amid the rapid rise in popularity for hoverboards and similar electric personal vehicles, Sonoma State University’s Housing Services recently announced a ban on the use and storage of the vehicles in campus residential areas. Housing services cited numerous incidents nationwide involving the devices potential to catch fire and explode while charging and when in operation. The ban went into effect on Jan. 15.

Hoverboards are small self balancing electric vehicles which sense the user's momentum in order to propel the user in the direction they wish to go. The devices, which have recently gained widespread popularity, have raised issues concerning the large amount of energy stored within the batteries of the devices and their fast rate of discharge which have the potential to lead to battery failures and cause damage while charging and when in use.

These concerns are compounded by numerous reports of the devices catching fire, damaging property and even causing injury. According to reports from ThePress Democrat, in Sonoma County alone two of the devices have caught fire within the last week causing property damage in both cases and the loss of two dogs in one incident that took place on Jan. 20.

In a newsletter that went out to students who reside on campus, it’s stated that the U.S Consumer Product Safety Commission as well as the California State Fire Marshall have issued warnings about the dangers associated with the devices. The newsletter also includes protocols that stateall electronic devices in university housing have to be certified by Underwriter Laboratories, an independent safety company that certifies products. As of Jan. 15,  a public notice by Underwriter Laboratories statednone of the hoverboards on the market were approved for safety by the company.

“Our safety concern is with the battery or other components of the devices catching fire and causing damage on campus property,” said Director of Campus Housing Nicole Hendry.

She also clarified that all appliances and electronics in residential housing must have Underwriter Laboratories certification.

Although the restriction was enacted as recently as Jan. 15 for Sonoma State residents, those who have hoverboards on residential property were given advanced notice.

“Housing and Residential Life sent email notifications to all residence about the storage of hoverboards,” said Cyndie Morozumi, Director of the office of Residential Life on campus. “We posted notices in each building as well.”

She also noted that residents will have time to remove the items from campus housing. “We will give them 24 hours to remove the board and issue a warning generally.  If a fire results because of the item, or residents disregard the 24 notice then our conduct response would obviously look different.”

Sonoma State’s action in banning hoverboards in campus housing comes at a time when other California State Universities are banning them as well. California State University Monterey Bay, California State University Chico, as well as many other CSU campuses have issued notices that restrict the storage of hoverboard devices in campus residences.

Although the primary concern of hoverboards are their potential to catch fire, other mechanics of the device follow similar safety concerns as other small personal vehicles and are expected to follow the same basic safety precautions..

 “We expect for those using hoverboards to follow similar safety precautions as would anyone using any other small wheeled device” said Chief of Sonoma State Police and Safety Services Nathan Johnson. “So far, albeit the concept is still new, we have not experienced any major problems or issues concerning their use,” he said in regards to reported problems with the safety of hoverboards on campus.