3 Minutes to Live: Fire Moves Fast!

Wednesday, October 7th, 2020

Your parents’ generation had a little under 20 minutes to safely escape a house fire. But these days, you may only have about 3 minutes. The reason? Newer homes, and almost everything inside them, burn quicker than ever before.

Non-Emergency Smoke & CO Alarm Hotline

Many modern houses have a popular “open concept” design, often with ceilings that soar high up through the 2nd floor. Unfortunately, open concept and loft layouts allow fire and deadly smoke to grow and move much faster than in traditional homes, which were designed with many more doors and separations. In fact, doors are a great way to slow the spread of fire and smoke, and the Pflugerville Fire Department strongly encourages everyone to always sleep with their bedroom doors closed.

But it’s not just the design of your home that gives you less time to escape a fire these days. It’s your home itself. Houses used to be built with thick, solid lumber that was held together with steel hardware. Most builders now use light-weight construction materials to construct houses and apartment complexes. During a fire, these smaller lumber and press-board materials burn faster and can quickly collapse.

Another concern about modern homes is their furnishings. In the past, most furniture was made from natural materials that burned much more slowly, such as wool, cotton, and solid wood. These days, your carpet, pillows, mattress, curtains, and even your tables and chairs are probably made from synthetic (man-made) materials. Plastics have also become a big part of daily life and are now found in almost every corner of the home, from toy boxes to storage bins. While these furnishings and household items are safe under normal conditions, they are fire hazards. Man-made furnishings catch fire easily and burn quickly.  In fact, some of these materials closely mirror gasoline as they transition from a solid fuel to a liquid fuel during heating. And when these synthetic materials burn, they release toxic gases. This means that a house fire can quickly disorient you, making it difficult to make critical decisions.

To better illustrate these risks, watch this powerful video to see just how fast a fire moves through modern vs. traditional furnishings. When watching this short video, think about how important your smoke alarms would be in that situation. If your smoke alarms aren’t working at home, would your family have enough time to escape and survive a fire? Our recently completed Community Risk Assessment was a somber reminder of just how important it is to have working smoke alarms in your home. 

The bottom line? Fire moves FAST. You and your loved ones have far less time to escape a house fire than you used to. Early notification from smoke alarms in the event of a fire saves lives. Period.

So when you think of fire safety, remember the number 3! 

  1. It takes just 3 minutes to push the test button on your smoke alarms every month.
  2. It takes just 3 minutes to change the batteries every year.
  3. It takes just 3 minutes to confirm your alarms haven’t passed their 10-year expiration date. Working smoke alarms save lives!

If you have any questions about smoke (and/or carbon monoxide alarms), please call us on our non-emergency Smoke & CO Alarm Hotline at (512) 989-4516.