How Long Do You Have to Escape from a Burning House?

In the event of a house fire, residents have only one option: Get out, and get out quickly. That was the conclusion of a 2016 study conducted by Underwriters Laboratories in Chicago, which determined that occupants have only three or four minutes to escape a burning house. This is a marked decrease from 30 years ago, when you may have had about 17 minutes to escape from a similar fire.

The report posted at attributed the difference to the fact that more synthetic materials are being used in today's furniture and fabrics. "The backing of your carpet is synthetic, your drapes are synthetic, the couch, the pillows are synthetic," explained John Drengenberg, consumer safety director for UL. "They burn hotter and faster than natural materials do."

On the other hand, how do fires start?

  • The American Home Furnishings Alliance told NBC News that it supports a federal flammability standard for upholstered furniture, but only if changes are safe, effective, and affordable.
  • In the 1970s, the Alliance said, upholstered furniture made in the US transitioned to polyurethane foam for cushions. Foam is more durable, affordable, and hypoallergenic.
  • The Alliance said that a vast majority of home fires are traced to upholstered furniture being ignited by a smoldering source.
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