(By Fort Myers Beach Captain Joseph DeVito) The United States Fire Service working in conjunction with Underwriters Laboratory’s Fire Service Research Institute, has developed a public education initiative, “Close Before You Doze.” This education initiative aims to save lives by encouraging people to close their bedroom doors when sleeping.
On average, 3,000 Americans die annually from fires in the home, the highest average in the developed world. Working smoke alarms and adopting “Close Before you Doze” has been positively correlated with increased fire victim survivability.
The modern home environment has dramatically changed in the last forty years. In this period, we have seen a transition from natural products in construction and furnishings to more and more synthetics. Synthetic materials used in construction and furnishings are frequently resistant to the initial ignition of fire; however, once ignited, they quickly produce volumes of toxic gases and high temperatures.
Forty years ago, occupants had 17-minutes to escape a fire in the home; today, occupants have only 3-minutes.
National statistics tracked by the National Fire Protection Association demonstrate that most fire deaths occur between the hours of 11 pm and 7 am. This makes the presence of working smoke alarms and a closed bedroom door critical because most fires occur while people are sleeping. In addition, working smoke alarms can alert the occupant of a fire, while a closed bedroom door ensures occupants have a survivable space to get out or wait for help.
The practice of simply closing a door to control the spread of fire and toxic gases is not new; this practice has been the norm in hospitals and schools for nearly six decades. When a fire occurs, rooms with a closed-door have temperatures that reach on average 100 degrees, versus a room with an open door where room temperatures can exceed 1,000 degrees.
Occupants need to worry about temperatures and toxic gases such as carbon monoxide and numerous other carcinogenic gases that quickly displace oxygen when a fire occurs. In rooms with a closed-door, oxygen levels can remain breathable at 18%, slightly below the level we usually breathe at 21%. However, oxygen quickly falls below 8% in rooms with open doors.
This picture demonstrates the importance of a closed bedroom door and the life-saving
difference it can make. Looking at this picture, one can easily see the hallway had a tremendous amount of heat, smoke, and toxic gases; however, the inside of the bedroom is relatively untouched.
Working smoke alarms, a home fire escape plan, and implementing the “Close Before You Doze” practice can save lives if a fire occurs.
If you or someone you know needs assistance checking smoke alarms, changing batteries, or cannot afford a smoke alarm, please contact the Fort Myers Beach Fire Districts Life Safety Branch at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (239)590-4210.
Captain-Paramedic Joseph DeVito has served the Fort Myers Beach Fire
District for 15 years. Before joining the District, Joseph worked for the Lee County Division of Public Safety as a Paramedic. DeVito is a Fire and EMS instructor and teaches fire science and thermal imaging for the fire service around the country. Joseph has multiple degrees and certifications and continues to educate to provide the best service for the citizens and visitors of Ft. Myers Beach.