Words to live by: ‘Close be­fore you doze”

Daily Times (Primos, PA) - - OPINION -

It seems like such a sim­ple con­cept.

But it could save your life.

It’s amaz­ing how many peo­ple ig­nore it – or sim­ply aren’t aware of it.

So what is it? It’s a very im­por­tant les­son im­parted this week dur­ing a train­ing ses­sion at the Delaware County Emer­gency Ser­vices Train­ing Cen­ter in Darby Town­ship.

On Tues­day, they lit­er­ally burned down a build­ing to prove their point.

And the point is this: We should all be sleep­ing with our bed­room door closed.

Why? In the event of a fire – and of course we all hope we never ac­tu­ally have to put this into prac­tice – it could save your life by slow­ing down the spread of the fire, pos­si­bly al­low­ing fire­fight­ers more time to res­cue you from your burn­ing home.

Maybe it’s a par­ent­ing thing. Par­ents are al­ways con­cerned about their kids. That ex­tends to the time when all are tucked safely into bed. Many par­ents take to sleep­ing with their bed­room door open so they can hear if their kids are up or squirm­ing, or some other late-night ac­tion.

It’s a habit fire of­fi­cials want us to break. And they have the facts to break it up.

As part of Mon­day’s demon­stra­tion, county fire of­fi­cials stressed the find­ings of re­searchers that in­di­cate sleep­ing be­hind a closed door can save your life in the event of a fire in your home.

The con­clu­sion comes as the re­sult of more than a decade of re­search con­ducted by the Un­der­writ­ers Lab­o­ra­to­ries Fire­fighter Safety Re­search In­sti­tute.

They even came up with a snappy way of re­mind­ing us of this po­ten­tial life-sav­ing prac­tice: “Close Be­fore You Doze.”

To prove their point, Steve Ker­ber, the direc­tor of the Un­der­writ­ers in­sti­tute, vis­ited the county Emer­gency Ser­vices Train­ing Cen­ter in Darby Town­ship for a lit­tle ex­per­i­ment.

Joined by a pha­lanx of fire­fight­ers from across the re­gion, they staged a fire, com­plete with a live-burn of a home con­structed with cur­rent build­ing ma­te­ri­als.

They even filled it with fur­ni­ture. Then they lit a can­dle, which ig­nited one of the so­fas. In a mat­ter of min­utes, the home was en­gulfed in flames.

Those min­utes are cru­cial, and it’s why fire of­fi­cials are push­ing the prac­tice of sleep­ing be­hind a closed door. The rea­son is sim­ple. Of­ten times those min­utes are the dif­fer­ence be­tween life and death. The closed door slows down the spread of the fire, and lessens the heat build­ing up inside a room. Very of­ten it can mean the dif­fer­ence life and death, af­ford­ing fire­fight­ers a few more cru­cial min­utes to get to res­i­dents who might be still be alive inside the closed­off room.

That’s the worse-case sce­nario. There also is a more prac­ti­cal side, also demon­strated by this week’s live-burn train­ing ses­sion.

Clos­ing a door also lessens the dam­age from the fire. As part of the ex­per­i­ment, of­fi­cials closed the door to two bed­rooms while leav­ing one other open. The pho­tos and paint­ings in the closed-off rooms were al­most un­af­fected by the in­ferno. The ones in the open bed­room were de­stroyed. The same was wit­nessed for the bed­ding and fur­ni­ture.

But the real les­son stressed here by of­fi­cials is the hope that they can save lives, that a closed door will af­ford fire­fight­ers pre­cious min­utes to get to the peo­ple who might be be­hind that door.

“If there’s some­one be­hind that closed door … they are most likely a sav­able life,” Ker­ber said. He con­trasted that with some­one un­con­scious in an open bed­room. The chance of them sur­viv­ing the blaze di­min­ishes.

Of course, fire of­fi­cials stress that clos­ing doors is only one part of an over­all fam­ily safety plan. At the top of that list re­mains work­ing smoke de­tec­tors, which can alert those inside to a fire and give them a chance to es­cape a burn­ing struc­ture al­to­gether.

Mike Alt knows a lit­tle some­thing about fire. He’s a fire­fighter and is also with the in­sti­tute. And he had this to say about the new push to keep doors closed.

“Min­utes are every­thing in a fire,” he com­mented. “Min­utes are life ver­sus death in to­day’s fires with to­day’s fur­nish­ings.”

He noted that stud­ies in­di­cate there was a time when peo­ple had an av­er­age of 17 min­utes to es­cape a burn­ing struc­ture af­ter a smoke alarm sounds, the ini­tial de­tec­tion of a prob­lem. To­day, in part be­cause of the ma­te­ri­als used in con­struc­tion and con­tents inside the house, that time has dropped to three min­utes or less.

This week’s ses­sion at the county Emer­gency Ser­vices Train­ing Cen­ter pro­vided a valu­able – life-sav­ing – les­son every cit­i­zen should em­brace. “Close be­fore you doze.” Words to live by. Lit­er­ally.


Smoke and fire bil­lows from liv­ing room win­dows dur­ing this week’s live-burn demon­stra­tion at the county Emer­gency Ser­vices Train­ing Cen­ter in Darby Town­ship. The pro­gram pushed the no­tion of clos­ing bed­room doors be­fore go­ing to bed at night.

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