I have a shocking confession to make.
I am probably one of the only people on the planet who does not watch the TV show “This Is Us.” I have many friends who religiously watch the show and post their reactions on Facebook. Recently, I was intrigued by some of the posts made after one of the episodes. What could possibly have happened on that show that would turn otherwise sane people into an angry mob of Crock-Pot haters? Finally, someone explained to me that one of those “evil kitchen appliances” (EKAs) had started a fire in the family’s home.
Those of my friends that did not take their anger out on a helpless kitchen appliance directed their energy towards something much more positive, testing their smoke alarms. Since fire prevention is a big part of my life, I was greatly encouraged by this. I decided that I would give my friend, Sarah Cooksey, a firefighter with the Tallahassee Fire Department, a call and maybe together we could identify some fire safety lessons that could be learned from “This Is Us.”
SPOILER ALERT: The following is a truncated account of the fire from beginning to end so, if you haven’t watched the episode, you may want to do that before reading any further.
To begin the scene, Jack is cleaning up the kitchen and turns off the EKA (or so we think). He then goes upstairs to join his sleeping wife. We later learn that the EKA has a tricky switch and is REALLY old. The EKA sparks and that catches a towel sitting next to it on fire. From there, the drapes catch and the fire builds.
Jack wakes up, notices something is odd, and opens the bedroom door. By this time, the fire has fully involved the downstairs and is traveling upstairs. He calls out to his teenaged children to stay in their rooms and keep the door closed. He tells his wife to wet some towels and goes out to bring his son, Randall, back into the master bedroom. He then goes out to get his daughter Kate. Once he gets to Kate’s room, though, the fire is upstairs and he finds it difficult to get back to the master bedroom. He grabs the mattress off the bed, using it as a makeshift shield. He uses the bedsheets to lower the kids and his wife down to the ground and then goes back inside for his daughter’s beloved dog. After a few harrowing moments, we see Jack come out the front door carrying the dog and some of the family’s treasures. We later learn that neither Jack or his wife, Rebecca, had changed the batteries in the home’s smoke alarms so they were not working at the time of the fire.
That’s the fire in a nutshell and, according to Sarah, it’s typical of how a house fire can occur.
There are definitely some things we can learn from the Pearson family’s tragic occurrence that can help us ensure our family doesn’t suffer the same fate.
- First, the fire could have been prevented if the EKA had been unplugged. It’s also important to note that this was a very old model and that modern ones are tested for safety and performance. So, don’t throw your Crock-Pots away, everyone. They’re not really evil at all!
- Second, WORKING SMOKE ALARMS SAVE LIVES! Smoke alarms give you an early warning so you can get outside your house quickly. Sarah says you should install smoke alarms in every bedroom, outside each sleeping area, and on every level of the home. These alarms should be tested at least once a month, the batteries changed twice a year and replaced when they are 10 years old. If the Pearson family’s smoke alarms had been working, they would have had much earlier warning than they did. According to the National Fire Protection Association, three of every five home fire deaths resulted from fires in homes with no smoke alarms or no working smoke alarms.
- Third, the Pearson family slept with their bedroom doors shut, and that’s a good thing. Sarah says that a closed door can slow the spread of smoke, heat, and fire.
- Fourth, make sure you and your family have a home escape plan, with two ways out of every room! Sarah says that today’s fires can spread very rapidly and sometimes families have as little as one to two minutes to escape their homes once an alarm sounds. Sit down with your family and develop your escape plan. Make sure you have two ways out of every room (include doors and windows). Practice the escape plan with your children and discuss what to do in the event of a fire. Designate a meeting place once you are outside and stress to your children the importance of getting out quickly and not going back inside for toys or pets.
There were a lot of crying emojis on my friends’ feeds after that episode. Honestly, I was tearing up a bit myself and I’ve never watched the show before! But, if it gets even one of you to think about fire safety in the home, then all the tears will be worth it.
I think Jack would have wanted it that way.
For more information about fire safety, home escape planning resources, and some fun fire safety games for children, access the NFPA’s Sparky the Fire Dog website. You can also get important information by accessing the City of Tallahassee Fire Department’s Facebook page.