Ind. fire dept. promotes safety with 'Close Before You Doze' campaign

The Terre Haute Fire Department's "Close Before You Doze" campaign is urging the community to use a closed door as a fire barrier

By Lisa Trigg
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE, Ind. — Closing the bedroom door when going to bed can be a life-saving difference.

As a barrier to smoke, heat and fast-moving flames, a closed door can add minutes for escape from a house fire.

As a barrier to smoke, heat and fast-moving flames, a closed door can add minutes for escape from a house fire. (Photo/Terre Haute Fire Dept.)
As a barrier to smoke, heat and fast-moving flames, a closed door can add minutes for escape from a house fire. (Photo/Terre Haute Fire Dept.)

That is the message being shared by Assistant Chief Norm Loudermilk of the Terre Haute Fire Department through the "Close Before You Doze" campaign.

Speaking to the Terre Haute Kiwanis Club on Thursday, Loudermilk said the pace in which a fire races through a home has increased at a deadly rate from decades ago.

"A person has about three minutes from the start of a fire to escape a house fire," he said. "Forty years ago, you had about 17 minutes."

That's because the materials used to build and furnish homes have changed. Natural building materials were used in the past, but synthetics are common now, and open floor plans in homes allow flames to spread faster.

Some furniture, such as couches, have surfaces that can ignite quickly if touched by a fallen candle or dropped cigarette.

Loudermilk said testing by Underwriters Laboratories Fire Safety Research Institute shows the benefit of keeping a door closed at night. A video of UL testing shows a room with a closed door during a fire had an average temperature of less than 100 degrees and carbon monoxide of 100 parts per million. A room with the door open reached more than 1,000 degrees and had more than 10,000 ppm of carbon monoxide.

The Close Before You Doze fire safety campaign is a public education initiative aimed at teaching people an important practice to contain a house fire and enhance safety.

Loudermilk said he has seen first-hand the difference a closed door can make. As an arson investigator, he often sorts through the remains of structure fires, looking at the patterns left by fire and smoke.

During one recent investigation, Loudermilk said, he saw how a fire that started in a basement traveled upward through a stairway, sending deadly smoke and heat upstairs to the sleeping occupants. By the time one of the residents woke up and tried to get other people out of the house, the heat was unbearable.

Fortunately, everyone made it out of the house alive, but one person suffered burns from the scorching heat -- not from the flames.

THFD has purchased door hangers with the Close Before You Doze message. Loudermilk said those hangers will be distributed in some higher-risk neighborhoods where residents live in close quarters.

He cautioned that Close Before You Doze works best when a residence has working smoke alarms. It is best to put smoke alarms on the ceiling in every sleeping room, he said, and to test and change the batteries regularly.

It is also important for residents to practice evacuating from a home in an emergency, and to have a designated meeting place outside the house so a head-count can be taken of all occupants who exit.

THFD is a busy agency.

Last year, the EMS service made 73 percent of the department's 10,581 runs. Firefighters made 2,815 fire-related runs. Of those, 200 fires were investigated for cause and origin, Loudermilk said, breaking down those 200 as:

  • 81 incendiary, or set fires.
  • 51 accidental, the majority being caused by electrical or smoking materials.
  • 67 were undetermined with a cause unable to be pinpointed.
  • 1 was natural, a lightning strike.

Firefighters also installed smoke detectors in more than 75 homes during 2017.

This year, Loudermilk said the department's division of inspections, prevention and investigations hopes to reach all county school children with information about Close Before You Doze.

He said parents may have concerns about the closed-door recommendation, since many want to be able to hear their children in the middle of the night. If that is a concern, put a baby monitor in children's bedrooms, he said.

"If you can't get to your children's room because you're cut off by smoke, the closed door will be a safety barrier and you know your children have longer to survive in that situation," he said.

Anyone wanting more information about Close Before You Doze can click here

Copyright 2018 The Tribune-Star

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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