In today’s world, consumers expect everything to happen fast. A hot meal at the door in 30 minutes or less. Groceries delivered in a matter of hours. Coffee order ready for pickup at the push of a button. In many cases, speed makes our lives a little bit easier. But when it comes to fire, speed is killing people in their homes. 

The pace at which a fire races through a home has increased at a dramatic and deadly rate. About 40 years ago, people had an average of 17 minutes to escape a burning home after the activation of a smoke alarm. Today, that window has shrunk to about three minutes or less. Natural furnishings and building materials have given way to synthetics, which burn much faster. Combine that with the popularity of open floor plans and it becomes the perfect habitat for an escalating fire.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, there were 379,000 residential structure fires in the US in 2017. As a result, they saw 10,600 civilian injuries and 2,630 civilian deaths.

What if a simple act – one that takes under 10 seconds to complete – could have a potentially life-saving impact during a fire? Would you do it?

In the event of a fire, UL Firefighter Safety Research Institute (FSRI) found that rooms with closed doors had average temperatures of less than 100 degrees and 100 ppm of carbon monoxide, compared to 1000+ degrees and over 10,000ppm of carbon monoxide in the rooms with open doors. 

Lexi King survived a house fire by closing her door. Her family, however, wasn’t as lucky.

Lexi liked to sleep with her bedroom door closed, but her brother’s was always open. When an overnight fire destroyed their Texas home, she was the only one to survive. Both her brother and parents died in the fire.

“What I had was a closed door. I had oxygen. I had time to collect my thoughts. I had time to prepare myself,” said King. “There literally is not a day that has gone by that I haven’t thought of them and their beauty that they brought.”

Each day our department responds to a variety of calls, some more easily controlled than others. This is why we are leading a campaign across the community to encourage a simple behavioral change – “Close Before You Doze.”

In partnership with UL FSRI, we want every family to make sure they close all of their doors – bedrooms, bathrooms and basement – at night in order to starve any potential fire of the oxygen it requires to grow. It will give you much more time to escape.

To increase your chances of survival during a fast-moving house fire, we suggest the following:

  • Make sure your smoke and CO alarms are in working condition. Install smoke alarms in every sleeping room and outside each separate sleeping area. Install alarms on every level of the home. Smoke alarms should be interconnected. When one sounds, they all sound. Test them monthly.
  • Close your doors at night.
  • If a fire ignites and you can get out of the burning structure, do so quickly and close every door behind you as you exit. If you can’t, put a closed door between you and the fire to buy yourself valuable time. Don’t ever go back inside a burning home.
  • For parents worried about hearing their child through a door closed, simply place a baby monitor in the child’s room. If you can’t get to their room because you’re cut off by smoke, know that the closed door will provide a safety barrier – giving them more time for help to arrive. 
  • Have an escape plan. Identify multiple escape routes from every room and practice them as a family at various hours.

After a fire starts, there’s very little time to act. Take these fire safety and prevention steps today and you’ll sleep easier at night.