Dubai: For your own safety, always close your bedroom doors.
This may be general knowledge but many residents still go to sleep with their bedroom doors open or left ajar that could put them in danger if a fire erupts somewhere in the house.
In the biggest tragedy that struck Fujairah on January 22, seven siblings belonging to Al Suraidi family died in their sleep after suffocating when a fire broke out in their house.
Civil Defence officials later revealed that faulty living room lights caused the fire. But the rooms, according to their mother, were filled with smoke in no time that claimed the lives of the seven children.
One bedroom door, in particular, was left open so light could come in from the living room. But it wasn’t just light that did.
Most fire-related deaths are not caused by burns but by smoke inhalation, according to the US’ National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).
This also applies in the UAE as most of fire-related deaths happen due to inhalation of toxic fumes from the burning materials inside the house, according to the Ministry of Interior in a Gulf News report last year.
The UAE recorded 0.023 deaths per 10,000 people in fire-related accidents between 2010 and 2014.
Timely action such as alerting Civil Defence and residents and evacuation are always key to surviving a fire.
But what if a fire happened in the dead of the night when everyone is asleep?
Pushkar Thakkar, founder and CEO of Delmont Fire and Safety LLC, said doing one simple thing before going to bed could help save lives.
“Closing the door can help prevent smoke from spreading into your room easily. If the doors are open, it will [quickly] spread all over the house,” Thakkar told Gulf News.
“Smoke if inhaled over a period of time affects the body, especially (that of) kids,” he added.
The simple act of closing the bedroom door before going to sleep is not without scientific basis.
A research by UL Firefighter Safety Research Institute (UL FSRI) showed that a house on fire with two bedrooms on the upper floor — one with a closed and another with an open door — had different rates of heat, smoke, and fire transfer. (See infographic)
Manoj Felix, a fire safety trainer at Al Salama Fire Safety Training, told Gulf News that most of the people they train don’t know the importance of closing their bedroom doors when they sleep.
The difference a door makes in a fire
According to tests conducted by the UL Fire Safety Research Institute, a room with a closed door makes a life-saving difference in a fire.
If a fire starts in the kitchen, oxygen from another room may fuel it. Closing the door prevents fire, heat and smoke from spreading to the closed room and gives the person inside a few seconds to call for help or look for another exit.
How it works
If a fire erupted in your kitchen, for example, even if your bedroom door is not a fire-rated one, it can slow down the process of fire, heat, and smoke transfer to your room. Working interconnected smoke detectors in your house can alert you even before the smoke spreads so you can evacuate.
Felix said a standard room without proper ventilation can be filled with smoke within approximately two to five minutes. But if the fire is massive and given the right conditions, it could spread faster. That is why the standard evacuation time is three minutes.
“Smoke is very light. It will always occupy the top part of the room and then move downwards as it fills the room. Fire needs fuel, a medium to transfer, but smoke doesn’t need any medium; it can cover an area immediately,” Felix explained.
Fire feeds on fuel and oxygen is one of them. It consumes the oxygen in an entire room and feeds more from any opening such as an open room.
“If you have closed the door, which means the fire will take time to enter the next area because there is something standing as a barrier for the fire and smoke to spread. This means, you have valuable time [a few seconds] to evacuate [your flat],” Felix said.