That episode of This is Us. Ugh.

I’m pretty sure I could hear the collective sobs of viewers all over the world as we watched the story of Jack’s fate unfold. Yes, I knew it was coming, but that still didn’t prepare me for the heartache. I feel like I just lost a best friend, don’t you?

As the credits rolled (right alongside my tears), I found myself reliving all of the little moments that led to Jack’s fate. Why didn’t you just remember the batteries for the smoke detector? Why didn’t you just unplug the dang Crock-Pot? Why on earth would you go back into the house for the dog? Why? Why? Why?

It seemed so obvious to me that Jack’s death could have easily been prevented if only one or more of these factors had been different. I’m not one to yell, but I couldn’t help myself on this one: COME ON, PEARSON FAMILY! GET IT TOGETHER!

But then it hit me: all of the circumstances that led to Jack’s death are things that could have easily happened in my own home.

So here I sit in bed at 11:23 p.m. reviewing fire prevention and safety tips and feeling my heart sink lower and lower as I realize my fire IQ isn’t nearly as high as I thought it was.

If there is one silver lining of tonight’s awful, heart wrenching episode, it’s that it has motivated me, and undoubtedly other fans all over the world, to reevaluate their own fire safety habits. We will be making big changes in this household, effective immediately. I encourage you to do the same if you realize that you’ve been making some of the same mistakes we have.

Here are four tips that we should all be following for fire safety and prevention:

1. Understand and follow the proper use of smoke detectors
Do we have smoke detectors in our home? Yep! We have six detectors in our one-story, 2,000 square foot home. There is one inside and one directly outside of each of the bedrooms, as well as one in the kitchen and one in the living room. We have our bases pretty well covered here. Check, and check.

But, smoke detectors can’t do their job if they don’t have working batteries in them. We replaced the batteries in all of our smoke detectors about two weeks ago, but prior to that, I honestly can’t recall the last time we even checked them. This is so not good.

Another BIG mistake is there have been times we have completely disabled the smoke detector in the kitchen while cooking. It goes a little something like this: food drips onto the bottom of the hot oven, oven begins to smoke, detector starts screaming, hubby stands on a chair and disables the darn thing, we take in the silence and go about our business.

There are two huge issues with this. The first is that the smoke detector doesn’t always get hooked back up right away, leaving us unprotected. Secondly, when the alarm goes off and our reaction is to roll our eyes and jump up to turn it off, we’re teaching our observant boys that the smoke detector is an inconvenience rather than an important safety tool.

Your home’s smoke detector protocol should look like this:

  • There should be a smoke detector inside and outside of each bedroom, as well as one in main living areas. If your home is multi-level, there should be detectors on each floor.
  • The batteries in your smoke detector should be checked on a regular basis. Make a habit of checking them once a month.
  • You should never disable a nuisance smoke detector. If it goes off when there isn’t a need, press the silence button. If you disconnect the smoke detector, reconnect it immediately.

2) Plan a fire escape route with your family
While our boys are still pretty young to fully understand a fire escape route, my husband and I haven’t even discussed this amongst ourselves. Hear me on this: a fire escape route is not something that you want to just wing and hope for the best. Have this conversation with your family and be sure that every member knows how and where they are supposed to exit your home should a fire occur.

  • Have two possible exits from each room in your home in case one becomes blocked in a fire. These exits can be doors or windows, just be sure you have a back-up plan.
  • If you have a multi-level house, have a fire escape ladder.
  • Practice your evacuation plan a few times a year so everyone is comfortable with what to do in case of a fire.

3. Sleep with your door closed
Our boys’ room is across the house from ours, and we habitually sleep with each of our respective bedroom doors open every night. The thought process behind this has been that we can hear what is going on in their room, and it’s easier for our toddler to get to our room in the middle of the night (a trek he makes most nights) if both doors are open. That all makes sense, right? Imagine my surprise when I discovered during my research that not closing our bedroom doors is a big mistake.

Much research has been done touting the benefits of a closed bedroom door in the event of a house fire. A closed door can keep toxic gases from entering the room, maintain a lower and thus, safer, room temperature, and act as a barrier to prevent the actual flames from entering the room (or at least slow their progression).

4. Once you’re out, don’t go back in
Our family has two dogs we adore. They’re a part of our family (as I’m sure your pets are) and it breaks my heart to think about something happening to them. When it boils down to it, though, even our beloved pets aren’t worth going back into a burning home for.

The same goes for possessions. I don’t care if it’s an old coin collection that has been handed down for generations or a valuable piece of jewelry that can’t be replaced. Whatever it is, it’s not worth your life or a family member’s life. You can buy a fire safe box to store valuables, but the only truly irreplaceable thing is your life. DO NOT go back into your house for any reason.

If you want to learn about other fire safety precautions you can take, I encourage you to do some Googling of your own. The information is there if you’re willing to take the time to educate yourself for the sake of your family.

Yes, This is Us is just a show (as my husband likes to remind me each week), but house fires? Those happen every day. When you know better, you do better, and my family will be better protected from now on out as we utilize these fire safety tips.

Now, hand over the tissues and chocolate.

Casey Huff

Casey is a middle school teacher turned stay-at-home-mama to three littles. It's her mission as a writer to shine light on the beauty and chaos of life through the lenses of motherhood, marriage, and mental health. To read more, go hang out with Casey at: Facebook: Bouncing Forward Instagram: @bouncing_forward