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NIH Fire Marshal ​Shares Microwave Safety Tips During 2023 Fire Prevention Week

​Fire Prevention Week is observed each year during the week of October 9 in commemoration of the Great Chicago Fire, which began on October 8, 1871, and caused devastating damage. This horrific conflagration killed more than 250 people, left 100,000 homeless, destroyed more than 17,400 structures and burned more than 2,000 acres of land.

The NIH Fire Marshal would like to share this year's National Fire Protection Associations (NFPA) Fire Prevention Week campaign message “Cooking safety starts with YOU, pay attention to fire prevention." At NIH, one method of cooking is the use of microwaves, which are in many break rooms and lounge areas in almost every building. Unfortunately, microwaves have been the cause of recent fires, primarily due to misuse. Here are some fire safety tips to follow.

Microwave Fire Safety Tips:

  • Before using a new microwave oven, always read the manufacturers operating procedures and safety precautions first.

  • Plug the microwave oven directly into the wall outlet. Never use an extension cord.

  • Do not use metal edged bowls, metal plates or cups, tin foil or metal twist ties in the oven. The metal can spark, damage the unit and lead to a fire. Use only microwave safe materials.

  • Clean your microwave to remove any grease or oil build-up.

  • Never use recycled paper products in microwave ovens unless they are specifically approved for microwave use. Some recycled products including paper towels and even waxed paper may contain minute metal flecks. When a microwave oven is operating, the interaction between microwaves and the metal can cause sparks and even flames.

  • Do not leave a microwave oven unattended when microwaving popcorn, since the heat buildup can cause fires. Heat the popcorn according to the instructions.

  • If you have a fire in your microwave oven, unplug the unit and leave the door shut. Call the fire department once you are in a position of safety.

If you have any questions regarding microwave safety or general fire safety precautions, please contact the NIH Fire Marshal at 301-496-0487.

Use their hazard reporting tool for situations on the Bethesda campus:. You may remain anonymous when reporting a hazard, but it always helps to have a contact so they can obtain information as needed.​