New campaign encourages closing doors before sleeping to save lives in a fire

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- As the chiller weather sets in, you might be flipping on the furnace or lighting the fireplace. It's part of what contributes to a spike in house fires this time of year.

But should that happen, there's one simple and critical thing you can do at night to help keep you and your family safe -- and it won't cost you a dime.

On Wednesday, a house was billowing with smoke.

“Oh boy! There she goes! Oh man, that is scary. That is scary, right?” witnesses said.

And flames then started shooting from the windows.

“Holy crap! Whoa!” witnesses said.

Thankfully this was just a test, conducted and recorded by the Underwriters Laboratories Firefighter Safety Research Institute. It was done to prove a critical point on a mistake many of us make.

“Who here thinks you’re safer sleeping with the doors open?” the researcher said.

“My kids’ room is two doors down from mine,” one test participant said.

“I’m not all that confident they’d stop anything anyway,” another test participant said.

The UL test was meant to prove a powerful point. Crews left one bedroom door open and closed the other, then let participants watch what happened in a controlled burn.

“The closed door on the left, open door on the right, and you can see the dramatic difference between the two,” the researcher said.

The open-door room was black and covered in smoke. The closed door room was unscathed.

“Frightening, terrifying. I really didn't expect anything like this,” participants said.

Local fire departments said they've seen this exact scenario play out. It's made worse from all the new synthetic materials used in everything from our carpeting to our furniture.

“They’re going to not only contribute to fire spread, but certainly they’re going to produce a very toxic smoke that`s full of carcinogens and quite deadly chemicals,” said Jason Rhodes, media manager with the Overland Park Fire Department.

UL’s Firefighter Safety Research Institute estimates 40 years ago, with more natural home materials, you had nearly 20 minutes to escape in a fire. Today, it's less than 3 minutes.

So closing your bedroom doors at night could make the difference of whether you can get out alive.

“Smoke is what kills. So putting a barrier between you and that smoke by closing that bedroom door, that`s going to buy you a tremendous amount of time,” Rhodes said.

UL’s new campaign, #CloseBeforeYouDoze, hopes to remind families everywhere to take that simple step every single night. In an emergency, it might just save your life.

It's so important because more than half of home fires happen between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. -- when most of us are asleep.

And of course, working smoke alarms are just another layer you've got to have to keep you and your family safe.

You can learn more about the Underwriters Laboratories campaign, including videos and things to print out for your kids, at closeyourdoor.org.