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The UL (formerly Underwriter Laboratories) has a Fire Safety Research Institute (FSRI) that claims that sleeping with the bedroom door closed reduces the risk of being killed in a fire:

UL FSRI research on fire service horizontal ventilation, begun in 2008, analyzed the effect of doors and windows on a fire’s spread. Bedrooms on the first and second floor of a home were tested during the scenario.

Using thermal imaging cameras, researchers found that closed-door rooms on both floors during the fire’s spread had average temperatures of less than 100 degrees Fahrenheit versus 1000+ degrees in the open-door rooms. “You could see a markable difference that a person could be alive in a room with a closed door much longer,” says Kerber.

They repeat the claim on their Close Your Door Safety Initiative campaign page:

The Close Your Door safety initiative comes as the result of over 10 years of research by the UL Firefighter Safety Research Institute (FSRI). After proving that a closed door could potentially save lives in a fire, UL FSRI has committed to share this finding with the world.

Their research is quoted in many places on the web:

Fox News makes a similar claim, citing a New York firefighter on Facebook.

Does the evidence support this?

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    Overall a good question, but I'd appreciate the sharing of what is prompting this skepticism (if anything.) – Roger Nov 20 '19 at 14:58
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    If the door can keep the fire/heat/smoke out of a bedroom it can also keep them inside—it all depends on where the fire is. – Laurel Nov 20 '19 at 22:36
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I looked for research into this issue which was independent from the UL FSRI.

In 1999, there was a Master of Engineering student's project report:

  • Deborah L Palmer, Should bedroom doors be open or closed while people are sleeping? A probabilitic Risk Assessment, 1999

    The aim of this research is to determine whether it is safer to sleep with bedroom doors open or closed in the event of a fire by performing a probabilistic risk assessment. The recommendation made by this research can be used by Fire Services to give the best advice on whether it is safer to sleep with bedroom doors open or closed. The analysis is carried out using two methods. Firstly by evaluating the expected risk to life to occupants by using FiRECAM (Fire Risk Evaluation and Cost Assessment Model), which is being developed at the National Research Council of Canada. The second method used determines the probability of failure using an event tree method.

    Both analyses recommend that it is safer to sleep with bedroom doors closed while sleeping. Although they agree with each other there are many issues requiring further investigation in both analyses.

The weaknesses of this reference include: it is a student submission, not a peer-reviewed article, and the conclusions are based on theoretical models rather than direct empirical data. I don't consider this strong enough information to base a recommendation on.

However, it is helpful here in that it supports that independent researchers are drawing similar conclusions to those of UL FSRI.

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Certainly UK fire regulations and analysis support this claim. Residential institutions are required to have automatic closers on bedroom doors because of this.

On taller buildings there is a requirement to have a 30-minute-rated fire door on bedrooms because it gives sufficient time for help / to escape from a fire outside the bedroom rather than be suffocated by smoke.

Advice on leaving a room in this circumstances includes to check whether the door feels hot - because there could be an active fire on the other side that the door is protecting you from.

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    Please provide some references to support your claims. Just because there is advice doesn't mean it is empirically supported. – Oddthinking Nov 20 '19 at 15:17
  • fireengineering.com/2017/10/05/191149/… Gives an overview. The assertions reflect my past building engineering and fire safety training but not finding it easy to come up with shareable studies. – Duke Bouvier Nov 20 '19 at 15:49
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    Thanks for the reference, @DukeBouvier. When we look for good references, we should be able to see what evidence that they have to support their claim. This site points to the sites who are the same ones making the claim in the question - that doesn't help. It mentions a few other organisations, but doesn't link to their studies. – Oddthinking Nov 20 '19 at 16:35
  • It's difficult - I know that UK Building Regs are evidence based (and much debated) but the actual evidence is fragmented and not easily available. – Duke Bouvier Nov 22 '19 at 16:01

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