Critical Fire Safety Lessons From NBC's Popular Show "This Is Us"

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In recent weeks, the popular NBC television show “This Is Us” has highlighted the importance of fire safety while demonstrating many of the common missteps homeowners take before and during an emergency that can unfortunately lead to tragedy.

The show is based on the story of the Pearson family, and a major story arch revealed that the beloved patriarch of the family, Jack, died due to a home fire. While the events in the show are obviously fictionalized, they highlight many real and vitally important fire safety issues, presenting an opportunity for families to practice and discuss fire safety at home.

Test and Replace Smoke Alarm Batteries

The show revealed that the Pearson family forgot to buy new batteries for their main floor smoke alarm. Because of this, they weren’t aware of the fire until it reached the second floor.

Early warning is critically important, and smoke alarms are the best way to ensure early warning. To keep alarms operational, test batteries at least once every month and replace them every six months. According to the NFPA, the majority of deaths in home fires result from homes with no operational smoke alarms, and in many cases, smoke alarms that were disconnected or had missing or dead batteries.

To avoid regular battery replacement, install alarms with 10-year sealed batteries, which do not require replacement for the life of the alarm. However, these alarms must still be tested monthly to ensure safety.

For more information about placement, installation and maintenance of smoke alarms, visit our Safety Corner.

Practice a Fire Escape Plan

Today’s home fires burn faster than ever, giving occupants a short window of time to exit the home. It is important to practice a fire escape plan with the entire family, so everyone knows two ways out of the home, what to do in certain situations, and where to meet outside the home. Fire escape plans should be practiced with the entire family at least twice per year. If the Pearson family had practiced a fire escape plan, Jack would not have had to find and lead all of the children out of the home.

Jack also may have contributed to the flames spreading by opening a door to the fire. Occupants of the home should use the back of their hand to see if a door handle is warm before opening. If it is, leave the door closed and find another way out.

While the family was able to leave the home, flames often block all exits out of the home. If this is the case, stay in the room, find the nearest window, and call for help. Firefighters and first responders will be able to best locate you this way.

Lastly, while exiting the home, avoid smoke inhalation by staying low to the ground and closing doors behind you as you exit.

Never Go Back Into a Burning Building

After Jack escaped the fire, his daughter Kate was upset that her dog was still in the home. Jack went back into the home to retrieve the dog, as well as many valuable possessions. While he was able to exit the home again, it was later revealed that he died of a heart attack due to smoke inhalation, which was exacerbated by the additional time spent in the burning home.

While it is difficult to leave other family members, pets, or valuable personal possessions in the home, it is critically important to never go back into the home. As part of the fire escape plan, the first person out of the home should call 9-1-1 immediately. Firefighters are trained to search the building and rescue any additional family members or pets in the home. To help them find pets, use window decals to alert firefighters of the type and number of pets that live in the home, so they can best locate all animals.

Unplug Kitchen Appliances and Check Electrical Wires

The fire in the Pearson home was caused by an old, faulty kitchen appliance that was left plugged in and sparked the fire. While the scene was set in the 1980’s and kitchen appliances have more safety features like emergency shutoff today, it is still important to unplug all appliances when not in use. Also, check all wires and switches for wear and tear, and keep electrical appliances away from flammable objects like paper towels or cooking oils.

Don’t Forget About Carbon Monoxide

While the show focuses on the fire, it is important to remember the importance of carbon monoxide safety. Carbon monoxide is an invisible, odorless, and potentially deadly gas, created when fuels burn incompletely. In the home, potential sources of carbon monoxide are faulty or improperly vented heating and cooking equipment, or vehicles or generators operated in attached, improperly vented garages. According to the NFPA, U.S. fire departments respond to an average of 9 carbon monoxide incidents every hour.

Because it is invisible and odorless, carbon monoxide alarms provide the only way to detect its presence. First Alert offers standalone battery operated and plug-in carbon monoxide alarms, or combination smoke and carbon monoxide alarms.