As a child, a closed bedroom door may have been scary. Light from the hallway made you feel safe and helped you fall asleep. After all, any monsters hiding under the bed would be afraid to emerge if they might get caught in the glow.
While these fears don’t keep you awake any more, you still sleep with your door wide open. Perhaps it’s out of habit, or maybe you’re keeping an ear out for your sleeping children down the hall.
But it’s time to put this habit to an immediate end and start sleeping with your bedroom door sealed tight. It just might keep you alive, and the reason is pretty surprising.
Today’s homes are built for our comfort and safety. Gone are the days of compartmentalized living, with a floor plan built around a handful of small rooms, each designed for a specific purpose.
Instead, we have extra-large living spaces that combine multiple functions. These designs make life a little bit easier: if the kids are playing in the living room, you can keep a close eye on them from the kitchen counter because all of the rooms flow into one another.
And the objects inside of our homes are different now too. Just slide open a drawer in your kitchen or have a look in your children’s toy boxes: items that were once made of wood, metal or other natural materials are now made of plastic.
These may seem like innocuous details of modern-day living, but, together, they’re a recipe for disaster. That’s because they make today’s homes significantly more flammable than houses of earlier days.
Of course, today’s architects, construction companies and contractors have to follow a stringent set of building codes to create a structure that’s habitable. Even so, most modern buildings burn quickly.
If a fire starts in a home with an open floor plan, it can move extremely quickly. In wide-open living spaces, there are no walls or other barriers in its way to slow down the blaze.
Along the way, the fire will undoubtedly burn up items that contain or are made of plastic too. As flames break them down, these goods release toxins that make the fire even more dangerous.
This perfect storm can reach you faster than ever before, even if you have a smoke alarm: most people have just three minutes to escape from a burning home after they hear fire detectors wailing.
In comparison, 40 years ago, a person had 17 minutes on average to escape a burning home. Even with technological advances in home security systems and emergency detectors, today’s homes are more susceptible to the dangers that come with a fire.
So where does your bedroom door come into all of this? It – and any other door in your home – can become a temporary barrier between you and the flames. The extra minutes or seconds it gives you to escape could be vital.
A closed door prevents a raging house fire from spiking the temperature in your bedroom. The Firefighter Safety Research Institute found that a room with an open door can reach an unbelievable temperature of 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit or more during a fire.
But rooms with a closed door won’t get nearly that hot. Their research found that some spaces round out at 100 degrees Fahrenheit even as flames envelop the rest of the property. Those spaces, of course, had their doors closed during the blaze.
Closed doors also block oxygen from moving from the bedroom to areas of the home that are burning. Fires feed on oxygen, so shutting the door can prevent flames from growing, spreading and continuing to burn.
Finally, as fire burns through a property, smoke fills the air. These clouds can be deadly – smoke inhalation actually causes more fire-related deaths than burns. A closed bedroom door can block that smoke from flowing in, thus protecting your lungs.
Even with a closed door though, fire prevention and fire-evacuation planning are still vital parts of home ownership. Remember, you might only have three minutes to get out of your house once your fire alarm sounds.
So regularly check your smoke detectors and make sure they are functioning properly. Make sure you have alarms on each floor of your home. According to the Red Cross, there should be alarms in bedrooms and in the areas near to where you sleep too.
It’s also important to come up with a home evacuation plan and make sure every single member of your family knows what to do and where to go in case of a fire. And, of course, close your bedroom doors every night before bed to put in place every single precaution to prevent the spread of fire – and keep yourselves safe from the dangers of modern-day living.