Microwave Oven Fire Safety

Integrated Fire SystemsFire & Life Safety Updates

Are You Using Your Microwave Safely?

Microwave ovens can be found in most homes and work places. They are convenient because they efficiently heat up food in a short period of time. With people being so used to using microwaves, it is easy to overlook the dangers of them.

Microwave Dangers

When not used properly, microwave ovens can become extreme fire hazards.  NFPA states that, “one in every six (17%) of microwave oven home structure fires cited appliance housing or casing as the item first ignited”. This means that it is more common for something inside of the microwave to ignite the fire than it is for the actual microwave to be the first source of ignition.

Once a fire starts in the microwave it can then catch the appliance on fire. This can then lead to the fire spreading to other areas of the kitchen and overall structure. NFPA reports that, “during 2007-2011 US fire departments responded to an average of 7,100 home structure fires per year in which a microwave oven was involved in ignition. These fires caused an annual average of less than 10 civilian deaths, 150 civilian injuries, and $31 million in direct property damage”.

Fires are not the only danger when it comes to microwaves. The leading cause of injury from microwaves are from scald burns. According to NFPA, “two of every five (41%) of the microwave oven injuries seen at emergency rooms in 2012 were scalds”.

Microwave Safety Tips

NFPA recommends that you:

  • Purchase a microwave oven that is listed by a qualified testing laboratory. Make sure to complete and return the product registration card. This way the manufacturer can reach you if there is a recall on the product.
  • Plug the microwave oven directly into the wall outlet – never use an extension cord.
  • Make sure the microwave oven is at a safe height, within easy reach of all users.
  • Open food slowly, away from the face. Hot steam or the food itself can cause burns.
  • Food heats unevenly in microwave ovens. Stir and test before eating or giving to children.
  • Never heat a baby bottle in the microwave. Since a microwave oven heats unevenly, it can create hot pockets, leading to burns. Warm a bottle in a bowl of warm – not hot or boiling – water, or by running it under the tap.

It is also important to always make sure that children are supervised when using microwave ovens. NFPA also states to “use only microwave-safe food containers or dishes. Never use aluminum foil or metal in a microwave oven”. Unsafe materials in the microwave will cause a fire.

If a fire starts in your microwave NFPA recommends these steps:

  1. Leave the door of the microwave closed.
  2. Turn the oven off and unplug it from the wall.
  3. If the fire does not go out, get outside and call the fire department.

When using a microwave always make sure that the oven is clean and that you are only putting microwave safe material into it. Once your food has been heated be sure to handle the hot food carefully.

-The IFS Team