KCBD Investigates: 3 words that will buy your family lifesaving - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

KCBD Investigates: 3 words that will buy your family lifesaving minutes in a fire

Rembering these three words could buy your family lifesaving minutes in a fire (Source: KCBD) Rembering these three words could buy your family lifesaving minutes in a fire (Source: KCBD)

We all think it will never happen, being ripped from your sleep to a piercing alarm, terrifying flames and a thick black smoke choking your lungs. 

For most survivors, the smoke lingers in their memories.

According to Underwriters Laboratories Firefighter Safety Research Institute, about 40 years ago, people had approximately 17 minutes to escape a fire.

Now, that window is just three minutes.

"Synthetics in the construction, synthetics in the types of materials you have in the house, they burn ten to 100 times hotter," said Kevin Ivy, Captain of Communication for Lubbock Fire Rescue.

Firefighters have long known a closed bedroom door keeps smoke and heat away, but new research proves sleeping with the door shut could actually buy you life-saving seconds.

"Those valuable moments when you're trying to figure out what you need to do. Understand whether you can get out or not. And if you can't, that barrier between you and the fire is critical," said Steve Kerber, a researcher who has conducted hundreds of studies with Underwriter's Laboratories.

He travels the country working with fire departments.

"It's critical. It's a really simple message and it could save your life in a fire," said Kerber.

Kerber showed us a recent test by setting a small flaming fire on the couch in a home with an open floor plan.

Upstairs there were two bedrooms, one with the door open and one with the door closed.

A minute and a half in, smoke poured into into the room with the door open.

At 3 minutes that room filled with toxic, thick black smoke.

"You wouldn't be able to see the hand in front of your face; you wouldn't be able to breathe," said Kerber.

At 5 minutes, the entire house became pitch black, but in the room with the door shut, there was still visibility.

KCBD NewsChannel teamed up with our sister station, WWBT in Richmond, Virginia, to work with firefighters at a state-of-the-art training facility to show you the science behind a closed door.

Using two photojournalists and six cameras covering all angles, including the view from a firefighter, Captain Scott Archibeque lit a flare and set a small flaming fire using wooden crates and straw.

"As the fire continues to grow it's sucking the oxygen from the room," said Archibeque.

As the fire started to grow, he shut the window and the door.

"This smokes going to start to build and the heats going to start to build," he said.

Outside of that room, there was barely any smoke in the hallway and firefighters breathed normally.

Inside the room, "We can see that the fire obviously is extremely warm and red in color. It's consuming the combustibles in the room. Right now we're probably a couple hundred degrees on the floor. Going across the ceiling it's probably 3 to 500 degrees," Archibeque said.

The closed door changes the flow of dangerous heat and toxic gases in a fire.

"Notice how the smoke comes across the ceiling. You can see the heat pushing, looking for the path of least resistance," said Archibeque.

Firefighters rushed in to put out the flames before the fire spread.

"You can have quite a significant fire on the other side of that door, but because the door is closed it's giving you those seconds or even minutes that you may need to find an alternative way out," said Captain Taylor Goodman.

Ivy said similar tests have shown the temperature in a room with the door shut can be 100 degrees, while just outside the door, temperatures are recorded at more than 1000 degrees.

"That little bit of barrier does help protect a lot," Ivy said.

In a fire, it is the smoke that often kills, long before the flames ever reach you.

That is why Ivy, firefighters across the country and researchers with UL are hoping to share this message.

In addition to closing your door at night, experts want to remind people to check their smoke detectors every months, wipe them down and replace them every 10 years.

In addition, practice a fire escape plan with your family.

UL has launched a pledge and even a video to help remind children to close their door.

Click here to learn more about UL.

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