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Should You Open or Close Your Doors During a Fire?

5 Items a Fire Marshal Checks for in Commercial Buildings

During a fire, every second counts. Fires can rapidly spread from one room to another, so making the right preparations and decisions can save lives. Business owners and building managers have a responsibility to ensure that their facilities are safe in the event of a fire. 

Why You Should Close Your Doors During a Fire

According to the Firefighter Safety Research Institute (FRSI), closing doors helps prevent a fire from spreading, mitigates smoke damage, and even saves lives. This rule applies to both commercial and residential buildings. 

The research is so conclusive on the issue that there is a website dedicated to spreading the safety message of closing doors (closeyourdoor.org). The three primary reasons it is important to close doors are cutting off oxygen, minimizing toxic smoke, and maintaining survivable temperatures.

Cut Off Oxygen to the Fire

It is important to close your doors during a fire because it helps cut off oxygen to the fire. Fires feed off oxygen, so the more oxygen they have, the more quickly they spread. 

When you leave your doors open (or, even worse, open your door during a fire), you allow all of the oxygen in the room you are in to get to the fire, causing it to spread more quickly. 

You may not think about how much oxygen is in a given room or how well it is sealed when the door is shut. However, if you open doors during a fire, a rush of oxygen can escape and go directly to the fire.

Mitigate Toxic Smoke

In addition to feeding the flames, opening your doors during a fire can increase toxic smoke levels throughout your home or business. The smoke from a fire does two things—it decreases oxygen levels and increases carbon monoxide levels. Both are deadly. 

If oxygen levels get too low, occupants of the building will not be able to breathe. If carbon monoxide levels get too high, they act like a poison and cause occupants to pass out. If you keep your doors shut, toxic smoke will still be able to get into the room, but not nearly as quickly as it would through an open door. 

A burning fire can fill a room with deadly smoke in a matter of minutes. Most people think that flames cause death during a fire, but actually, smoke inhalation is more likely to cause death. For this reason, it is imperative to keep your doors closed during a fire to cut off the deadly smoke.

Maintain Survivable Temperatures

Another deadly hazard during a fire that is often overlooked is deadly temperatures. According to the San Francisco Fire Department, indoor fires can reach temperatures as hot as 1100 degrees Fahrenheit. 

The temperature only needs to get to about 300 degrees Fahrenheit to be fatal. When your doors are closed, it prevents heat from entering quickly. This means that the temperature of the room will stay at a survivable number for longer than if the door were open. Even glass or wood doors act as a barrier to high temperatures.

How You Can Ensure Your Doors Are Closed During a Fire

When occupants of a building realize there is a fire, panic is often the first response. When building occupants go into a panic, that is when mistakes happen.

The number one thing you can do to ensure your doors are closed during a fire is to prepare a fire plan and practice it. All homes and businesses should have a specific plan to execute in the case of a fire. This includes shutting doors, proceeding to a safe escape route, and meeting other occupants at a meeting place.

Simply having a plan is not enough. You need to practice your plan to make sure that everyone is aware of their responsibilities and capable of acting quickly in an emergency. 

If you want more safety and protection from fires, you can invest in fire-rated doors. These doors are specially engineered to withstand flames and high heat and better protect rooms and their occupants from fires.

If you are considering fire-rated doors or simply upgrading the doors in your business, contact CDF today!

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