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Exploding cell phone shocks 911 dispatcher

Motorola phone burns through emergency worker's jacket pocket and explodes, filling the room with smoke.

A group of Utah 911 dispatchers faced an emergency of their own this week when a Motorola cell phone overheated and exploded.

Dispatcher Kris Munford's V300 camera phone grew "red hot" just as she and her co-workers settled in for their 6 a.m. shift on Sunday. The handset burned a hole in her jacket pocket, fell to the floor and exploded, Munford said, adding that burning parts landed as far as 10 feet away and smoke filled the room.

"I saw smoke coming out of my jacket," Munford said. "I pulled it away from my body, but by then the phone had burned through. After it started to fall, I heard what sounded like a balloon popping." One of the crew hustled the burning pieces outside, while the rest continued to work as fans cleared the air.

The cause of the Utah event remains under investigation, according to Motorola spokesman Alan Buddenbeck. No injuries were reported, although Munford said she's a little shaken up. "They asked me if I wanted the same phone to replace the Motorola," she said. "But I'm a little leery right now of Motorola, so I went with a Samsung."

Cell phone owners and manufacturers face a growing problem from overheating batteries, amid growing reports of meltdowns and explosions linked primarily to black-market replacement batteries. In response, handset makers Nokia, Kyocera Wireless, Motorola and others have begun work to standardize cell phone battery components to avert further incidents.

Chipmakers are also adding new security measures to thwart battery counterfeiters, which are to blame in many of the incidents. But such fail-safes wouldn't have worked in Utah--Munford said the battery was the original one.

Motorola's Buddenbeck stressed Wednesday that in relation to the hundreds of millions of phones sold in the United States last year, the overall number of those that malfunction represents an extremely small percentage.

"I don't want to mitigate how serious we take each of these incidents," he said, "but in general they are quite rare."