More than half of all fire deaths in American homes occur at night. But, as Scott Friedman of Texas NBC affiliate KXAS reports, there's one simple fire safety trick that could save your life: Shut your bedroom door — either at night, before you go to bed, or during a fire if you can't escape through the door. Doing so "could buy you extra seconds or even minutes, time to find another way out of the house, or time to wait until firefighters can reach you," Friedman says.
Experiments conducted at Underwriters Laboratories, a global independent safety science company, illustrate why the advice works. Researchers lit a fire in a building that contained two upstairs bedrooms. They kept the door of one room open, and closed the door of the other room. After the fire had been burning for three minutes, the open-door room was filled with thick smoke. In the closed-door room, there was still some visibility even at the five-minute mark. By keeping a door closed, you change the flow of heat and toxic gases.
Despite the efficacy of the closed-door method, the majority of fire safety guides released by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) do not mention sleeping with your door shut. The advice just wasn't that popular among FEMA focus groups.
"We have learned that we can't tell our customers everything that we know is important," FEMA spokesperson Sandy Facinoli said in a statement.
Some parents worried about being unable to hear their children behind closed doors. The solution is to place a baby monitor inside kids' rooms.
Still, Friedman reminds us that a closed door is no replacement for a smoke detector. Firefighters recommend that you have smoke detectors inside and outside of all the bedrooms in your house, in addition to practicing a fire escape plan with your family.