Closing your bedroom door at night could save your life, fire safety experts say

By Amy Anderson
KCTV 5 – October 12, 2018


We all know stop, drop and roll. We all know about smoke detectors, and we all know to have a plan in case of a fire.

But did you know the one simple act of closing your door could mean the difference between life and death?

Overland Park Fire Department officials say it could save your life.

“Our safety message we want to get out to the public is that at night, when you’re sleeping, close that bedroom door. That way if there is a fire, there’s more time to get out of your home before that smoke and heat enters your bedroom,” said Mike Morgan, a fire training officer with the Overland Park Fire Department.

The department created an experiment for KCTV5 News.

“We’re going to light a fire, and we’re going to watch and see what happens in our model,” Morgan said. “Down here to start it off, I just have some kindling and sawdust, and I’ll add some foam. That foam represents some of the material that’s in modern day furnishings.” he said.

That foam, found in so many furnishings these days, creates more smoke and gives off even more toxic chemicals.

It didn’t take long for the tiny embers to grow, sending black smoke right up what would be the staircase.

“What we have here is a fire – on the bottom floor or the first floor – and it will travel through the stairwell. As you can see we have two simulated bedrooms. One the door is shut. One the door is open … that smoke is going to travel through the path of least resistance,” Morgan said.

And that’s exactly what it did.

After a few minutes, you could barely see inside one room, and the windows of the center area, where the staircase is, were incredibly hot to the touch.

In the other room, there were cool windows and little to no smoke.

“It doesn’t surprise me that we’re getting a little bit in here, but you can definitely see the difference between having a door open versus having a door closed,” Morgan said.

Tricia Roberts agrees. She’s a public education specialist for the Overland Park Fire Department. She says in schools, they’ve been teaching kids about closing the doors for a while now.

“It’ll buy you extra time if there was a fire … every second counts. It really is a race against time,” she said.

Roberts says fire can double in size in only 30 seconds, and closing the door can often buy you precious minutes you’d need to figure out how to get out or wait for firefighters to arrive.

And it’s not just the fire you’re trying to steer clear of. It’s the smoke.

“We’re worried about the smoke, absolutely. Smoke can move through a building quickly and it’s full of toxic chemicals,” she said.

Roberts says be sure to do maintenance on your smoke alarms. Don’t just install them and forget it.

“You want to hit the button at least once a month, change at least twice a year … every ten years, get a new one,” she said.

And make sure your children are familiar with the sound of a smoke alarm, and that they know it means they need to get out of the house.

Roberts advice for parents who may not feel comfortable closing the bedroom door on a child and then closing their own door? Invest in a baby monitor and make sure you have a plan. Your little ones will be safer with the door closed.

“I would encourage people to have an escape plan and practice it. You don’t want the night of a fire to be a surprise, you want to know exactly what everyone will do,” Roberts said.


Posted by Gwen Dorr Romine, KSFFA Webmaster
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