NORTHBROOK, Ill. (FOX 32) Here are two questions for you: Do you sleep with your doors open? Have you ever taken out the batteries from your smoke alarm because it goes off too easily?
If you've answered yes to either of these questions, it could be the difference between life and death.
Winter is the time when most home fires occur, and statistics show 30 years ago you had up to 17 minutes to escape a house fire. Today, because of plastics and materials in the home, you only have about 3-5 minutes.
That's where Underwriters Laboratories (UL) testing comes in. The facility based in Northbrook does safety testing to protect you from among other things, home fires. Their big push is the "close before you doze” campaign.
"What we did is we looked at the movement of flames and smoke,” said Barb Guthrie, Vice President of Underwriters Laboratories.
A UL video shows the difference a closed door can make. A room on the left had a closed door as a protective barrier, a room on the right, the door was left open. It's obvious: "close before you dose."
“It's a simple message, a simple act of behavior that is life-saving,” said Guthrie.
Another simple deterrent is working smoke detectors. Smoke alarm research and testing lab manufacturers are working to reduce the likelihood of having an unwanted or nuisance alarm caused by a smoke detector.
That's said to be a leading reason for disconnected smoke alarms.
"We've all been there where we are cooking that nice dinner and it results in the 'wave', we call it,” said Guthrie,” Unfortunately, often the removal of the kitchen smoke alarm battery and we forget to put it back in."
UL has been undergoing testing for a decade on smarter smoke detectors to set new safety standards that will carry the UL label. They've been doing what they call the “hamburger cooking test” by using smoke alarms to see how they react to various levels of smoke from cooking.
The new standards will be required by 2020. The hope is better smoke alarms coupled with the "close before you dose" campaign, will have a significant impact on the number of people who die from fires every year.