No one wants to think about their home catching on fire. But if it were to happen, there are simple ways to increase the chances that yourself and your family would make it out safely.
According to the National Fire Protection Association, a house fire occurs somewhere in the United States every 88 seconds. Perhaps even more startling, innovations in home furnishings, layouts and construction over the last 40 years have reduced the average time to escape a home fire from 17 minutes to three minutes or less.
The Firefighters Safety Research Institute, operated by the nonprofit group Underwriters Laboratories, is on a mission to educate people about a basic and effective method that provides critical extra minutes to save lives in the event of a fire. Called “Close Before You Doze,” the advice is simple: close your bedroom door before going to sleep at night.
After more than a decade of research, the FSRI found that closing your door can slow a fire’s spread, reduce toxic smoke levels, improve oxygen levels and decrease temperatures — all of which increase your chances of survival. During a house fire, rooms that have the door left open heat up to more than 1,000 degrees inside. Rooms that have the door closed? They are typically around 100 degrees, according to the researchers.
“As fire service researchers and professionals, we encourage people to take several precautions and have an evacuation plan, but closing doors at night is one simple and quick routine that anyone can adopt right now,” Steve Kerber, director of the FSRI, said in a press release. “It is a very simple behavior change that can help save your life and your loved ones.”
The group even shared an image on Instagram that shows the stark differences between what a bedroom can look like with its door open or closed during a house fire.
The campaign also found that the average person is not aware of the dramatic impact this simple step can have in the event of a life-or-death situation. After surveying more than 3,204 adults in the U.S., FSRI researchers found that 52 percent believed having the door open would make the room more breathable and only 17 percent of people who sleep with their door closed do so because they believe it to be safer in a fire.
Why Does It Work?
Fundamentally, keeping a door shut is important for cutting off a fire’s oxygen supply.
“People think, ‘Well, there’s smoke in my house. I want to let the smoke out,’” Kerber said on the group’s website. “Yes, you’re letting the smoke out, but you’re letting the air in, and that’s where the problem occurs. With the doors and windows closed, the fire won’t have oxygen to burn and it’s going to stay right there, giving other people in the house more time to get out and also helping protect your property.”
Of course, if you are able to safely evacuate your home in case of a fire, you should do so. But just remember to shut the door to your room before you go to bed because it could save your life.