NBC 5 Investigation of “Closed Door Message” Reaches Fire Investigators Statewide

Door Plucked From Grapevine Fire Shows How Closed Doors Can Save Lives

An NBC 5 Investigation could lead to changes in fire safety lessons across the state and even across the country.

Last fall, NBC5 Investigates revealed new research from Underwriters Labs, that shows how sleeping with a bedroom door closed can buy life-saving seconds or even minutes for someone trapped in a fire.  Extra time for a person to find a way out of the fire or time for firefighters to reach them.

On Tuesday, hundreds of fire investigators from across Texas watched our NBC 5 Investigates reports at the North Texas Fire Investigators Association Conference in Richardson. Fire marshals talked about ways to start sharing the "close the door" message more widely in their communities.

"It's such a simple message and I don't know why we weren't taking it to the public before," said Grapevine Deputy Fire Chief Randie Frisinger.

At the meeting, Grapevine fire officials challenged other departments to join them in launching campaigns to get the “close the door” message out to the public.

To illustrate the point, the Grapevine Fire Department recently pulled a door that had been in an actual fire. You can see how badly the flames damaged one side of the door that was directly exposed to the fire. On the other side there’s hardly any damage at all, showing how well a door can shield against the worst of heat.

“This was not an expensive door it was probably one of the most inexpensive doors. They call it a hollow core door in fact it as cardboard inside it,” said Frisinger.

The NBC5 Investigates report also aired nationally on NBC’s Today Show, and circulated among firefighters.  Now there’s now more talk about including the closed door message in fire safety campaigns.

"When we do presentations at schools we say, 'Hey, we have some homework we want you to bring to your parents, check your smoke detectors.' Now we can add, 'Make sure you’re closing the door at night,'" said Reggie Alexander, the association's president.

Our investigation found The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s U.S. Fire Administration does not include closing the door in most of its safety materials.

FEMA told NBC 5 Investigates focus groups showed some people didn’t like the message. In a written statement last October a spokeswoman said, “We have learned that we can’t tell our customers everything that we know is important.”

But another top safety group, The National Fire Protection Association, says it will reconsider the issue at a meeting in March.

“When people hear their names being put out there and asking why aren’t we speaking to this and they don’t have a good answer, I have to say that creates a pressure for them to say we have to give it an honest look,” said Kelly Nicolello at Underwriters Laboratories.

UL researchers say the best way to increase your chances of survival is to close your bedroom door at night and of course have a smoke detector in each bedroom and outside each sleeping area.

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