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“Open Door Policy” is not such a good idea when it comes to fire safety!

April 27, 2012

We’re big advocates for closing doors.  It’s not that have anything to hide, but we have our reasons.

Reason #1

Fire tends to be limited by two things:  oxygen and fuel.  If you can reduce either, you slow the fire down.  Most firefighters have seen at least one case in a career where a fire used all of the oxygen in a closed room and went out.  Furthermore, if a fire has to burn through a door to get more fuel, that will take some time.  So closed doors reduce the availability of oxygen and fuel to an incipient fire and may help slow it down.  That gives you more seconds to escape.

Reason #2

Doors hold heat in.  Keeping heat away from the occupants is what we’re all about.  A standard hollow-core interior residential door is not going to hold back much, but we’ll take any time we can get for occupants to get out.  This is especially helpful in stairwells.  Open stairwells are chimneys that will send fire racing upward.  Physicists tell us that upward fire movement capitalizes on the convective method of heat transfer and fire intensity will build dramatically as it goes upward.  If you have a door to a stairwell, keep it closed.

Reason #3

Doors also hold smoke in one place.  Depending on what you read, 60% – 80% of US fire fatalities are killed by smoke and never even see flames.  The list of toxins emitted from structure fire smoke is staggering.  You do not want to breathe that smoke (and we don’t want you to either).  Closed doors help keep smoke contained so you and your family have time to get out while breathing good air.


The majority of our house fires occur after dark.  Statistically you’re most likely to encounter a fire when you’re asleep.  So we advocate that you close doors in your home when you go to bed tonight.  This action will help compartmentalize your home, keep heat and smoke isolated, and buy time for your family to get out to safety.  Naturally all of these escape plans are predicated on you having functional smoke detectors in place.  You’ve got those . . . right?


Question:  If the smoke detector is going off and you’re trying to get out, do you just open a closed door?

Answer:  No, feel the door first.  Use the back of your hand and feel as far up the door as you can (remember, heat rises).  If the door feels warm or hot, there’s fire on the other side.  That door has already bought you some time.  Leave that door closed, use the time it has gained you, and get out another way.

If you’ve got questions about home fire safety, call us at 466-4602, or e-mail me at, or post a question here on this blog.


From → Preparedness

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