*This article contains spoilers*
NBC hit series This Is Us is well known for taking viewers on an emotional, intense journey through every episode. I am used to feeling heartbroken, uplifted, and angry all in one episode. I knew the Superbowl episode would likely be all that and more as we finally saw the story of Jack’s death.
I went into my DVR Monday morning (because I have an infant and watching it live at 10 p.m. was downright laughable), took a deep breath, and hit play. I anticipated lots of tears, but instead I found myself raging at my television set. Why? The Pearsons broke every damn rule of fire safety!
As the wife of a former volunteer firefighter (and daughter-in-law of a current one) I may have a slight leg up on some of these things as I hear stories of silly, avoidable fires. So let’s walk through the disaster that was the Pearson house fire and correct their mistakes in our own homes, shall we?
Unplug Appliances and Throw Out Broken Ones
Crockpot has released a statement saying that in their entire history, a malfunction like the Pearson’s had has never happened. Even so, broken or “finicky” appliances should be thrown out immediately as they are a fire hazard. Additionally, every kitchen appliance should be unplugged when it is not in use with the exception of the refrigerator. Now a lot of us will still keep our microwaves and coffee pots plugged in too, but try unplugging the toaster oven, the mixer, and the crockpot. It will help your electricity bill too!
Alright, so the Pearson’s house fire engulfed the home with the family inside because they were not alerted by a smoke detector (as it didn’t have batteries). Lots of issues here. The first being there should be multiple smoke detectors in a home. Specifically at least one on each floor, one outside of the kitchen, one outside each sleeping area, and one in each bedroom.
Smoke detectors should be tested monthly, batteries should be replaced twice a year (daylight savings time is a good time to do this), and each unit should be replaced every 10 years. Even if the Pearsons forgot to replace the batteries in their kitchen smoke detector, they should have had at least 4 or 5 more in the house to alert them.
Avoid Opening Doors
When Jack Pearson realized there was a fire in the house he brazenly opened his bedroom door. He gets a point for having the bedroom door closed (this keeps smoke and fire from spreading as rapidly), but he opened the door without feeling it for heat. If the door was hot, that would indicate the fire was near. He could have engulfed himself and his wife in flames by opening the door.
Fifteen fire extinguishers could not have put out the Pearson’s fire once they realized it was happening, but that doesn’t mean one wouldn’t have been completely invaluable or you shouldn’t have some.
Jack made heroic, but stupid efforts to save his children. As a parent, I can say one of my worst fears is a fire in my home and being unable to reach my son. For this reason, I keep a fire extinguisher in our attached bathroom. In the event of a fire, my husband or myself could use the extinguisher to get to our son’s room across the hall or at least slightly lessen the effects.
Homes should have a fire extinguisher on each level and near any particularly hazardous areas (not in them as they then become useless). So be sure to have a working fire extinguisher outside of your kitchen, laundry room, and garage. It’s a good idea to check the expiration date on your fire extinguishers when you test your smoke detectors. Replace expired extinguishers promptly as they become useless.
Get Out of the Damn House
I shouted expletives when Jack told Rebecca to “get dressed and get [her] shoes on.” For pete’s sake, the number one rule in a fire is get out as quickly as possible. Fires can change and grow rapidly, so it is not worth even 30 seconds to grab possessions, change clothes, etc.
Then Jack tells Rebecca (and later Randall) to wait in their bedroom I was furious! Although he did tell them if he wasn’t back in three minutes to go without him, this is stupid. They should have fled out the window. Really, Jack shouldn’t have gotten the kids at all. He should have hollered to them to jump out of the window. I’m giving him a pass on that one as a parent, though.
Smoke inhalation is the biggest hazard in a fire, so breathing in minutes more of smoke is a huge deal. Items can be replaced, memories can live on without pictures, but you might not survive the smoke.
While we are on the smoke issue, Jack should have been crawling on the floor to reach his children. Although there is still smoke lower to the ground, smoke rises, so he could have breathed a little easier and diminished his smoke inhalation by crawling.
Use Fire Ladders or Just Let Your Legs Break
Alright, using bed sheets to get more safely get to the ground from the second story is clever, however Jack and Kate should have just left from her bedroom window (and Rebecca and Randall should have already been gone). Broken legs are a lot less of an issue than smoke inhalation and burns. They should have jumped.
If your own home has hard to exit rooms, invest in fire ladders to keep in bedroom closets or even boxes beneath the windows if you’re really paranoid. You can pick one up at your local hardware store for under $50.00. If the Pearson’s had these they could have exited much faster.
Jack Pearson “heroically” returned to the burning house to save Kate’s beloved dog and picked up some photo albums, Rebecca’s necklace, and who knows what else along the way. This is stupid, not heroic. I am not an unsentimental person, but a person can share a lot more memories than a photo can. I also love my dog as much as the next guy, but they are also not worth your life. Think about a pet safety plan now and never, ever go back into a burning building.
Do Not Delay Medical Evaluation
Every single one of the Pearsons should have immediately gone to the hospital to be evaluated. They all inhaled smoke. That aside, Rebecca should have taken the kids to Miguel’s house and Jack should have gone to the Emergency Department by ambulance. Would it have saved his life? Not necessarily. Could he received better, faster, and therefore more effective treatment? Hell yes.
Have a Fire Safety Plan
The most important thing your family or household can have to protect themselves in the case of a fire is to have a plan. Know who is physically capable of exit themselves. Know who will need help (infants, disabled, elderly) and how they will be taken care of. Know where to meet. Having a plan could have spared the Pearson’s a lot of time, smoke inhalation, and potentially Jack’s life.
The problem with the depiction of a house fire This Is Us presented isn’t that it is unrealistic. The issue is that it is far too realistic. Many families across the United States are not prepared for a house fire. Fires are terrifying, but they don’t have to be deadly. Prepare your home and prepare your family to avoid a tragedy like the Pearson’s by taking steps today.