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Project Engineer, UL

September 23, 2019


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Fire door safety week 2019

Close before you doze: fire safety and your doors at home

There is no doubt that fire doors within buildings save lives, protect property and reduce the damage caused when a fire starts.

By containing the fire in the room/compartment of origin, a fire door helps restrict the spread of fire and smoke, and thus protects the all-important escape routes. In our schools, hospitals and workplaces, we walk through fire doors every single day and don’t give them a second thought.

As highlighted during Fire Door Safety Week, fire doors are engineered to do a vital job – but they can’t do that job if they’re wedged open or broken. They must close into the frame and fit against the door stops in order to work.

Question: When is a fire door not a fire door? 

1. When the door closer doesn’t close the door into the frame

2. When the lock has been removed and a hole is left behind

3a. When it’s propped open with a fire extinguisher

3b. When it’s propped open with a propane gas canister

3c. When it’s propped open with a water bottle

4. When there is damage to the frame

5. When the door is warped and doesn’t fit into the frame on all edges

However, when it comes to our homes, many of us may not have a single fire door within our property. Depending on the age, design and the applicable building regulations at the time of construction, the doors separating rooms from the means of escape in your home could just be normal domestic doors.

However, that doesn’t mean they can’t help contain a fire. UL has been running a campaign in the US called Close Before You Doze. The campaign advocates safety while sleeping and as with all good safety messages, it’s simple to grasp!

In a modern house with synthetic furnishings, occupants may only have around 2.5-3 minutes to evacuate

You will see from the video below that for many different reasons, we don’t always close doors to bedrooms, kitchens and lounges before we go to bed at night. Monitoring pets, listening out for children, and keeping an airflow on a hot night are some of the reasons given.

The reality about fire is it’s unpredictable; we never know when a fire may start, and we should always resist the temptation to say: “It will never happen to us.”

We should all practice good fire safety in our homes: trying to reduce the likelihood of a fire starting, planning our escape, and importantly protecting the escape route. Smoke alarms on the means of escape help give us warning.

However, our reactions can be slower when awakening from a deep sleep. Reacting to the alarm and starting to evacuate quickly is vital in a real fire situation.

In a modern house with synthetic furnishings, occupants may only have around two and a half to three minutes to evacuate if a fire starts to take hold and grow. Therefore, if we take longer to react to the alarm, that added time could mean our escape route is cut off, especially if we don’t protect it by closing the doors onto the escape route.

The Close Before You Doze fire demonstration dramatically highlights the benefit of closing doors at night when we go to bed. The difference when the wall drops to reveal the two bedrooms is incredible.

It’s clear that closing the doors in your house can help save lives by containing the fire and protecting your escape route.

By closing doors before you go to bed, you and your family have additional time to evacuate safely via internal escape routes. Even domestic doors offer some protection to the occupants and will slow down the fire spread to the means of escape.

This case study from the Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service shows how effective just a normal door can be in a fire and how important establishing a night time routine of closing doors is.

Please help spread the message during Fire Door Safety Week — Close Before You Doze!




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michael floyd
michael floyd
September 26, 2019 11:38 am

Love the gas cylinder shot – pity it was only patio gas – the ultimate would be acetylene !

Simon Ince
Simon Ince
October 4, 2019 12:42 pm
Reply to  michael floyd

Michael how big a bang do you want? 🙂 Patio gas cylinders stored inside is never a good thing in a fire. I think I am correct in saying if the fire service discover one in a fire situation they withdraw to a safe distance and wait for it to blow or the fire to burn out which ever comes first!