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Observing batteries in everyday life(B)

Fire brigade - A fire brigade had chronic communication problems with two-way radios. The problems were most acute during call-outs lasting two hours and longer. Although their radios functioned on receive, the transmissions broke up and the calls did not get through. The fire brigade acquired a battery analyzer (Cadex) and all batteries were serviced through exercise and recondition methods. Batteries that did not recover to a set target capacity were replaced.

Shortly thereafter, the firefighters were summoned to a ten-hour call that demanded heavy radio traffic. To their astonishment, none of the radios failed. The success of this operation was credited to the good performance of their batteries. The following day, the captain of the fire brigade personally contacted the manufacturer of the battery analyzer and enthusiastically endorsed the use of the device.

Emergency response
- A Cadex representative was allowed to view the State Emergency Management Facility of a large US city. In the fortified underground bunker, 1400 batteries were kept in chargers. The green lights glowed, indicating that the batteries where ready at a moment's notice. The officer in charge stood erect and confidently said, "We are prepared for any emergency".
The representative then asked the officer to hand over a battery to check the state-of-health. Within seconds, the battery analyzer detected a fail condition. In an effort to make good, the officer grabbed another battery from the charger but it failed too. Subsequent batteries also fell short.

nickel-based batteries placed on prolonged standby become inoperable due to memory in as little a three months. Scenarios such as these are common. Political hurdles and lack of funding often stand in the way of a quick solution. The only thing the officer can do is pray that no emergency will occur.

Army - Defense organizations take great pride in employing the highest quality and best performing equipment. When it comes to rechargeable batteries, however, there are exceptions. The battery often escapes the scrutiny of a full military inspection and only its visual appearance is checked. Maintenance is frequently ignored and little effort is made in keeping track of the battery's state of health, cycle count and age. In time, the soldiers begin carrying rocks instead of batteries.

Batteries fooled the British Army during the Falkland War in 1982. The army assumed that a battery would always follow the rigid military specifications, even after long neglect. Not so. When the order was given to launch the portable missiles, nothing happened and the missiles did not fly that day. The batteries were dead.

Government services - An organization continually experienced failures with nickel-cadmium batteries. Although the batteries performed at 100% when new, the capacity dropped to 20% and lower in only one year. We discovered that their two-way radios were under-utilized; yet the batteries received a full recharge after each short field use.

The capacity on half of the batteries had dropped to 70-75%. With exercise and recondition (deep cycle), all batteries were fully restored (100%). Had maintenance been omitted for much longer, the probability of a full recovery would have been jeopardized.

Construction - I noticed fewer battery problems on two-way radios with construction workers than security guards. The construction workers often did not bother turning off their two-way radios at the end of the shift. As a result, the nickel-cadmium batteries got their needed exercise and kept performing until they fell apart from old age, often held together with duct tape.

In comparison, the security guards pampered their batteries to death by giving them light duty and plenty of recharge. These batteries still looked new when they had to be discarded after only 12 months of service. Because of the advanced memory, recondition was no longer effective.

Memory only occurs on nickel-based batteries, a phenomenon that can be corrected with periodic discharge cycles.

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