UL FSRI Survey: More Americans Close Doors for Fire Safety, But There is Still Work to Do

New data highlights the importance of spreading fire safety messages to communities
UL Firefighter Safety Research Institute (FSRI) dedicates itself to raising awareness of fire safety measures and preventative actions people should take to help protect themselves and their loved ones – from closing bedroom doors before bed to having working smoke alarms and a fire escape plan.

Close Before You Doze
UL FSRI launched the Close Before You Doze campaign to spread a message that stops the spread of fire. It shows people why they should close all doors in their homes before bedtime as this can help create a barrier against deadly levels of carbon monoxide, smoke, and flames in the event of a house fire, and potentially save someone’s life if they are trapped and can’t escape. The campaign spread quickly with a viral video that shows the dramatic difference between the conditions in two bedrooms after a house fire, one with the door open and the other with the door closed. The room with the open door is filled with thick black smoke and soot, while the room with the door shut is left almost untouched.

The video is a great visual for what UL FSRI researchers already know, and firefighters across the world have seen – a closed door not only protects from heat and smoke but cuts off the fire’s oxygen supply and slows the fire’s growth. It also shows the greater public that a closed door can mean the difference between life and death in a house fire.

UL FSRI recently conducted a U.S. consumer survey of more than 3,000 people to determine the public’s awareness and participation in fire safety measures. More than 49% of respondents said they believe it’s safer to sleep with the door closed, yet 26% said they always sleep with their bedroom door open.

Of all respondents, parents and pet owners are more likely to sleep with an open door despite prevalent safety warnings against the habit. In fact, 35% of parents sleep with their door open, because they believe they’re better able to hear their children and 33% of pet owners surveyed sleep with their door open to allow their pets to come in and out of the room at night.

Despite these statistics, the impact of the Close Before You Doze message continues to grow. People are changing their behavior with more Americans now sleeping with the door closed – up to 25% in 2019 from 17% in 2018. In fact, the survey found that 91% of Americans who have seen or heard the Close Before You Doze message now report always closing their doors before going to sleep – a testament to how important it is to spread this life-saving message to others.

Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department in Virginia knows firsthand the power of a closed door. In collaboration with UL FSRI, they released a powerful video featuring firefighters’ helmet camera footage as its firefighters extinguished a house fire and conducted a search inside the home. They found a girl alive and safe in a room protected from the fire by a closed door while the rest of the house was engulfed in smoke. The video shows vividly how this simple step can make all the difference in surviving a fire.

New Smoke Alarm Technology
In addition to the Close Before You Doze message, UL FSRI continues to promote to the public the importance of working smoke alarms – a well-known fire safety measure that often gets overlooked. The survey found that 62% of Americans have one to three working smoke alarms in their house, but only 23% of people check them once a month, the recommended frequency.

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) has shared that roughly three out of five home-fire deaths occur in residences where there are no working smoke alarms. And that people cite cooking nuisance alarms as the leading reason for a smoke alarm to be disabled. This practice is extremely dangerous, and the organization has recently updated the UL Standard for smoke alarm safety to minimize cooking nuisance alarms. The newest edition of the Standard includes performance-based technology requirements that enable alarms to better differentiate between smoke from cooking and that of an actual, potentially life-threatening fire.

Working with the industry to revise the standards for smoke alarms, this shift represents the most significant change since the 1970s. The new requirements and advanced technology increase the range of smoke particle types for testing the performance of smoke alarms making them more responsive to actual fire threats in homes. The next generation of smoke alarms that comply with the enhanced standards may be equipped with more advanced sensors or use several sensors (multi-criteria) and algorithms that will be capable of distinguishing the difference between a smoldering or flaming fire and cooking smoke. For more information on the enhanced Standard, visit smokealarms.UL.org.

Educating the Community
The data shared shows that people are taking steps toward fire safety, but there is still a great need to educate communities and families to protect themselves with a fire safety plan. While the UL FSRI study found that 59% of Americans have a fire escape plan, 43% have only reviewed it once or never at all.

Fire safety education is more important than ever, and UL FSRI aims to help fire service members to educate their communities this Fire Prevention Awareness Month and throughout the year. UL FSRI offers various tools and assets that can be used to help share the life-saving message of fire safety and Close Before Your Doze at closeyourdoor.org. Spread the word the helps stop the spread of fire!
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