Most people know that having a working smoke alarm with fresh batteries is important in case there’s a fire. But there are a lot of other simple defenses you may not have heard about that can boost your chances of survival if a fire does break out. Simplest of all? Keep your doors closed. A closed bedroom door could literally mean the difference between life and death.
Living in a Material World
In many ways, we’re all a lot safer than we were half a century ago. Modern cars have crumple zones and anti-lock brakes, we’re no longer exposed to secondhand smoke everywhere we go, and homicide rates are down. But when it comes to fires, the world today is more dangerous than it ever has been.
Four decades ago, the average time you had to escape a house fire from the moment your smoke alarm went off was 17 minutes. Today, it’s three minutes or less. That’s because, despite fire codes and building regulations, the fact is that modern homes just burn faster.
Why? For one thing, while homes of the past may have been smaller with many individual rooms, people these days prize large spaces with open floor plans. That means a fire has fewer obstacles to burn through as it moves from room to room. Additionally, because of the plastics in many furnishings and household items, fire is more toxic and burns much faster than ever before.
Hello, Who Is It?
With so little time to escape a blaze, every added second becomes even more important. Keeping your bedroom door closed at night — and closing your other doors, while you’re at it — can give you that precious time. A closed door may not seem like much to stop a fire, but research performed by UL’s Firefighter Safety Research Institute (FSRI) shows that it can have a big effect.
In a fire, a room with an open door can broil at more than 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit (538 degrees Celsius). If that door had stayed closed, the temperature in the room could bottom out at just 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius). A closed door also limits the flow of oxygen, which is one of the fuels a fire needs to keep burning.
Of course, heat and fire aren’t the only dangers in a blaze. According to the National Fire Protection Association, most fire deaths are caused not by burns, but by smoke inhalation. A closed door keeps toxic smoke from billowing into the room and into your lungs, giving you the fresh air you need to plan your escape. By closing your doors, maintaining interconnected smoke alarms, and having a fire escape plan for your entire family, you can boost your chances of getting out alive when disaster strikes.