Do you have a bedtime routine? Brushing your teeth, reading a book, perhaps a little deep breathing?
If so, add one more step to your regimen: Be sure to close the bedroom door.
One of the most effective ways to give yourself more time to escape a house fire is to sleep with your bedroom door closed, according to research from the Fire Safety Research Institute (FSRI), which is part of the public-safety nonprofit Underwriters Laboratories.
Yet just 29% of people always take this potentially life-saving step.
Here are several reasons why sleeping with bedroom doors closed can mean the difference between life and death.
1. It slows the spread of carbon monoxide gas
Leaving the door open invites deadly carbon monoxide gas to fill the room quickly after a fire breaks out. A room with the door open might see carbon monoxide levels rise to 10,000 parts per million.
Close the door, and you can drop the amount of carbon monoxide that gets into the room dramatically, to 1,000 parts per million.
2. It slows the spread of fire
In some ways, the potential danger that house fires pose is greater than in the past. Fires now spread faster than ever due to how many synthetic materials are found in modern-day furniture, fabrics and housing construction.
In fact, you typically have three minutes to escape a house fire today, compared with 17 minutes four decades ago, FSRI says.
A fire needs oxygen to grow. Closing the door to your room prevents more oxygen from getting to and feeding the blaze.
If you exit a home during a fire — or even if you are trapped in it — closing doors and windows is the right thing to do, says Steve Kerber, vice president and executive director of FSRI:
“People think, ‘Well, there’s smoke in my house. I want to let the smoke out.’ 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.”
3. It helps keep the temperature lower longer
By closing the door to your bedroom, you can potentially reduce the temperature in the room during a fire from 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit down to 100 degrees.
That can dramatically increase your chances of survival as you wait for the fire department to arrive.
4. House fires are more likely to happen at night
Half of house fires start between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. That means there is a substantial risk that a fire will break out while you are sleeping.
Keeping the door closed can help keep the fire at bay for a while as you are sleeping — hopefully, long enough for the fire alarms to sound and for you to dial for help.
For more about the potential danger of fire to your home, check out “Use This New Tool to Check Any Home’s Wildfire Risk.”