Don't become trapped in the Hoard!

Don't become trapped in the Hoard!

Trapped in the Hoard 

Without a doubt the number one concern of teaching firefighters about fires that occur in hoarding conditions is the potential of firefighters becoming trapped inside. While this potential is present on any type of fire, hoarding presents additional challenges.  Understanding the potential for trouble should ensure all firefighters are visiting self rescue, lost orientation, and entanglement training monthly.  Let’s face it, many of us will be lucky to review and practice these procedures yearly if at all. Let’s take a look at three processes you can review to prepare yourself. b2ap3_thumbnail_IMG_2371.JPG

Hoarding Concerns

As a persons home becomes full with belongings the amount of usable space is severely restricted. With this collection the potential for firefighters becoming lost inside increases. From day one most firefighters are taught orientation based on contact with a wall.  Household clutter that extends well beyond arms length from the wall is common in the hoarding conditions.  Firefighters who do not make adjustments for this danger can find themselves disoriented in a labyrinth of belongings, usually that have no secondary means of egress.  

How can this happen? Does the firefighter not see the junk?  Great questions, but there can be many factors that contribute to firefighters not seeing or suspecting clutter.  One factor is where the home is located. If inside a municipal district there may be no visible clutter from the exterior.  These hidden heavy content homes may not indicate clutter until entry. Secondly, the first room of entry my be free from clutter. In hoarding conditions not all rooms are completely packed full, there can be varying levels of stored items.  If the room of entry is open the firefighter may assume the rest of the building is the same way. 

Don’t waste time

Many firefighters ask how long they should wait before calling a mayday.  In hoarding situations the time to call should be reduced. Why, because the length of time to rescue will be increased.  If  firefighters were to find themselves in the middle of clutter without means of orientation this is a true emergency. The amount of time before declaration of the mayday should be short.  

Ideally the lost firefighter will have a search rope, TIC, and/or a hose line for orientation. If none of the potential life savers are present and you are disoriented call it……CALLL IT NOW!!  

Some firefighters feel if they call a mayday without being in true life or death danger they can be ridiculed by other members once the fire is  out.  So what! At least you will be alive to take it. If you feel the need to search out secondary means of egress and/or a point for orientation without positively knowing the direction you can find yourself going towards bigger danger, especially if you choose to crawl over stacks of debris. In heavy content conditions that best path is inside the pre-made pathway established by the occupants.  

If a firefighter does not feel the need from a mayday declaration they should begin with radio communication to inform everyone of the situation and request information that can help them become reoriented to their location or establish secondary means of egress. These communications should be short and to the point. The longer it takes to establish location the more air the firefighters will be using and less time to make an escape. Establishing air consumption rates and understanding how to function in a high stress situation can aid in the reestablishing orientation. If firefighters have even a small amount of doubt, CALL THE MAYDAY. 

Entanglement Solutions 

Inside cluttered conditions firefighters will find a variety of entanglement dangers. From large collection of Christmas Lights to wire from dryer vents ran for ferrets to travel room to room these challenges may be some that firefighters had never even thought of.  

The most important variable in the entanglement equations is identification of there presence. Not crawling into a room with a collection of wires is the BEST solution to this problem.  Making this seemingly simple statement more complex is the density and thickness of the smoke.  Limited visibility can make this near impossible.  Using the Thermal Imaging Camera (TIC) offers firefighters the tool to identify these situation.  While scanning with the TIC firefighters should look for piles of wires, tubular shaped dryer style vents, multiple electric cords, and other challenges that can entangle them. 


If a firefighter is to become entangled they must revert to solid training.  Using techniques such as the swim move, grab and cut, are both options while remembering to not pull the entanglement tighter.  Both of these techniques are commonly found in firefighter training manuals and require more time that allowed in this short blog.  If you are not familiar with these techniques click Here and Here to watch short videos on managing entanglements. 

Clearing Debris b2ap3_thumbnail_Delta-Alpha-Corner.jpg

Whether before or after any firefighter emergency that happens inside a Heavy Content Environment will require the removal of debris. From simply moving a stack to the labor intensive task of moving massive piles clearing debris in a hostile environment comes with challenges.  

First and foremost, is the workload on the firefighters. If the work is being completed inside a smoke field environment air consumption will be increase. Lower actual working times will require more firefighters to be available to perform the task of moving the debris.  Key to knowing this problem is the identification of heavy content early in an operation to allow time for other firefighters to be on scene.  

Second, is the potential for added weight to cause a localized collapse. When clearing debris to reduce or prevent a mayday firefighters need to understand that moving the weight of a stack to lay on top of another stack could be enough added weight to cause a collapse.  


Example: Pile A has x amount of weight, while Pile B has x amount of weight.  These piles have added weight slowly over many days and weeks allowing for the structure to adjust.  Imagine if in a short amount of time the weight from pile A is put on top of pile B.  In a matter of minutes you could have double the actual weight of pile B. The weight added could stress that area of the structure enough to cause a local or complete collapse. 

It is important to understand this risk when working around the massive amounts of stuff inside a heavy content environment. When tasked with moving stacks of debris, whether for a mayday or not, firefighters should ensure the distribution of the weight is not piled in one central area that could already be near the collapse level.  Spreading the weight over a larger area will help reduce the chances of collapse danger. 

Ryan’s Advice 

Fighting structural fires will always bring an amount of risk with it.  When operating inside homes filled with massive amounts of content the risk will be higher.  Firefighters need to understand the sheer volume of physical risk required to accomplish even the most simple tasks. 

Prevention is the best advice for mayday situations. By using good situational awareness and common sense firefighters should manage the potential  mayday causing situations.  Use the pathways for transportation routes, keep the stacks in place, pay close attention to air consumption, and always suspect that adding more weight to an already weighted down building runs the risk of collapse.  

Actionable Items

1.Review your mayday radio transmission 

2.Ensure the purchase and upkeep of wire cutters

3.Review TIÇ use in identifying wires, cables, and other entanglement hazards

4.Practice swim technique

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Hoarding conditions made fire difficult to fight, official says

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WRIGHTSVILLE, Pa. —Six adults and one a child are out of their home after fire through it Friday morning in Wrightsville, York County.The fire started in a basement laundry room around 4:30 a.m. at the home along the 500 block of Walnut Street between 5th and 6th streets. The homeowner told News 8 that he tried to fight the fire with an extinguisher, but the flames were too much. The state police fire marshal is investigating, but because damage is so extensive, the cause is not yet clear. Firefighters said the blaze was difficult to fight due to hoarding conditions in the basement.

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Washington DC 2-Alarm Fire with Heavy Content Challenges

Washington DC 2-Alarm Fire with Heavy Content Challenges

News article courtesy of Maryland Fire News 

Read more Here 

Date: January 20th, 2015
Time: 09:20 hours
City: Northeast
County: Washington DC
Address: 1100blk Oates Street Northeast
Type: 2nd Alarm Apartment Fire

Details:

Companies were dispatched for the reported apartment fire.  Engine Company 3 arrived with fire showing from a 2 story apartment building.  Battalion Chief 2 arrived establishing command.  Interior crews reported heavy fire in an apartment on the first floor with hoarding conditions.  Engine Company 8 advanced a line to the floor above.  Companies on the 2nd floor were met with heavy fire conditions and holes in the floor.  Command requested the 2nd Alarm as interior crews were getting a knock on the fire.

The bulk of the fire was knocked down in 20 minutes with all searches coming up with negative results.  Command held Engines 3, 8 and 16, Truck 15 and 2 approx 40 minutes into the incident.

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Derbyshire Firefighters raise awareness of Hoarding

FIREFIGHTERS in Derbyshire have held a seminar to raise awareness of the extent and impact of hoarding.

Compulsive hoarding is a debilitating psychological condition that is only just being recognised and one that can lead to issues regarding the health, wellbeing and fire safety of everyone in a hoarding home. It can also present significant risks to the community, firefighters and other agencies.

 

Last month 58 delegates from a wide variety of agencies from across Derbyshire representing; housing, environmental health, Age UK, care coordinators, the police and prevention and inclusion officers from the fire service came together at a multi-agency hoarding seminar hosted by Derbyshire Fire and Rescue Service.

There are approximately 50 hoarders known to the fire service in Derbyshire. It is anticipated that by working together and pooling knowledge with other services that this number will rise significantly.

 

Speaking on behalf of service, area manager Steve McLernon said: "By sharing information and best practice we can work together to help and protect not only those that are affected by hoarding, but also those that may have to come into contact with a hoarder or their home."  

Read More Here

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Raw Video Hoarding Apt. Fire Maryland

hoarder-fires-2017



Great footage from Statter911.com of a three alarm fire in PG county Maryland that was complicated by Hoarding Conditions.  This is a great reminder that Heavy Content conditions can be found in any occupancy.  It is common to find these conditions in multi-family dwellings.  The case study from 200 Wellesly Ave in Toronto is a HUGE reminder of Hoarding in a High Rise occupancy.

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Hoarding Fire New Jersey

dunellenfire

Tuesday, October 14, 2014 05:39PM

A firefighter was injured in a two-alarm fire Tuesday at a condo complex in Dunellen, New Jersey.
The blaze began at about 11 a.m. on Pulaski Street near the intersection of South Avenue.

One firefigher suffered smoke inhalation and was taken away by ambulance. He is in stable condition at Robert Wood Johnson Hospital.

Firefighters had a tough time battling the fire because in the apartment where the fire started, it was a case of what some are describing as hoarding conditions.

It was so difficult getting into the apartment that firefighters had to fight it from the outside.

 

 

 

Read More Here
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Hoarding discovery on Medical Response

hoarder-ems

The news explains the initial call for service as being a respiratory distress call that evolved into a HazMat situation, due to the suspected Meth Lab inside.  

This is a great example of the exposure potential to all first responder agencies. Let’s take a look as some learning points from this news clip:

EMS: Many EMS agencies do not carry the needed equipment needed to protect their responders from the airborne dangers of hoarding, managing the collapse risk, and facilitate a safe removal.  the need for additional resources should be made immediately. 

Police:Our brothers and sisters in blue often do not receive the awareness training when faced with hoarding conditions.  When education is taking place adding them into the classes should be mandatory. Often they will respond for a well being check and, without understanding the danger, enter a environment that is hazardous. 

 

Fire:  In the news clip the firefighters take the appropriate actions by wearing their SCBA and turnout gear while investigating the apartment.  While this may not be required on all hoarding calls it should be considered if faced with multiple animals and homes filled with fecal matter or urine.  

 

Take away 

 

The most important take away from this short news clip is the need to start identifying these conditions in our areas. Starting a unified approach to hoarding is the “best practice” to ensure all cases are identified and shared with every agency. 

 

Using building inspectors, building managers, and utility workers is a great way to gain access to building that first responders usually do not have access to. Reach out to these agencies and explain the dangers of hoarding and being the mutual working agreement to help combat this problem.


 

 

 

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Firefighter Shocked in Hoarder Fire

 

Hoarder Fire Bob Donaldson / Post-Gazette


By Molly Born / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Firefighters crawled over piles of books, newspapers and other items Tuesday morning while trying to put out heavy flames in a vacant house in Homestead.

Allegheny County assessment records show the house belonged to Margaret Mary Vojtko, the former Duquesne University adjunct professor of French whose death in September sparked a debate about the workloads and pay of adjuncts at U.S. universities.

A West Homestead firefighter was injured helping battle the blaze at 1110 Sylvan Ave. Homestead Deputy Fire Chief Ron Kalupson said the firefighter, whose name was not released, was taken to UPMC Mercy for observation after he received an electric shock while extending a hose.

The house, while unoccupied, still had electrical power, the deputy chief said.

Firefighters had to crawl over a lot of “debris” to extinguish flames coming from the second floor of the two-story brick home, the deputy chief said.

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/local/south/2014/03/25/Firefighter-hurt-in-West-Homestead-blaze/stories/201403250176#ixzz2x55PoQ7L

 

News Video Coverage Found Here

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Podcast about Hoarder Fires

Guest Podcast Recorded with the folks from Firefighter Toolbox.  Listen in as David J Soler interviews Ryan Pennington on tips for fighting Hoarder Fires:

Show Notes:

Firefighter Toolbox.com


Hoarding has been becoming a growing concern in our communities.  How does this affect us  firefighters?  What does it matter?

Well, on this episode, I talk with Ryan Pennington, who has done a ton of research on the subject, and he tells us all about hoarding and how it affects us as firefighters and what we really need to know.  So many issues arise from hoarder fires and our tactics need to be adjusted because of the different dangers.  Get educated on them so you or your crews don’t get hurt.  This is something that can happen in any district.

This and  more.

Listen in Here

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Chamber of Hoarders Learning Center: Behind the Scenes



 

Here is a behind the scenes look at the ChamberofHoarders.com Learning Center.  Four hours of education of Hoarding and how we need to Identify, Adjust, and attack the overloaded buldings caused by Compulsive Hoarding Disorder.

 
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News Coverage of Numerous Hoarder Fires


Are the number of Hoarder Fires rising? As we research this question the evidence seems to point towards: Yes they are. Until we establish a definite way of recording data on the number of Hoarding Fires that are occuring, we rely on news stories from around the world to update us on the number of hoarder fires. They usually grab news attention due to the amount of firefighters required and the length of time it takes to manage these situations.

This post is to share some of the latest news stories from around the world about Hoarder Fires:

    1. Elderly couple die in each others arms from Hoarder Fire. UK

 

    1. Officials say Hoarding Fueled Glendale Arizona Mobile Home Fire

 

    1. Portland Firefighters had to deal with large amounts of Clutter.

 

    1. Faulty Lamp cause Fatal Hoarder Fire in St. Saviour, Jersey

 

    1. Conditions made the fire hard to fight in Fatal Mass Fire

 

    1. Body of Mich Hoarder found inside Mobile Home

 

    1. College Park Hoarder Fire turns Fatal



These are some of the most recent news stories from around the world on Hoarder Fires.  A new feature here on the Chamber of Hoarders  will be a monthly update on the news stories reporting emergencies inside the hoarding envriornments.

 

Stay safe and always remember..... Hoarder Fires: Identify, Adjust, and ATTACK!!!

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Ems Response to Hoarding: Locating the Victim

One type of call that Fire, EMS, and Law Enforcement often respond to is the

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="229"] Ems response to Hoarding


“check the well being” of a occupant that has not made contact with family in a certain amount of time.  Being called to check the well being of a person inside hoarding conditions can turn into a major incident it the responders enter ill prepared.  Let’s take a look inside the hoarding environment to offer some insight for first responders tasked with going inside them looking for people that have not been communicating with their friends, family, or others.

Ensuring Occupancy


Before we go inside the hoarding environment, exposing ourselves to different dangers, we should take steps to determine if the person is still living there.  Often, in hoarding conditions an occupant can fill their home until it is no longer inhabitable and just move out, that simple.  If the home has become so full the occupant will often disconnect the utilities, whether their choice or the building inspectors choice, and move to a different location.

If the call comes in to check on an occupant and you arrive to find a potential Heavy Content Environment we should take some steps to find out if the home is still occupied.

  • Have dispatch forward contact information to on scene responders for questioning

  • Question neighbors

  • Inspect utility meters

  • Perform a 380 degree size up

  • Look for access points (often NOT the front or back door)


Locating the Victim


Once the determination has been made that a person could be inside the hoarding it’s time

[caption id="attachment_883" align="alignright" width="200"]Hoarding Hoarding


to go looking for them.   Understanding that hoarding can take over a home and prohibit occupants from sleeping in bedrooms or sitting in living room can help lead you to their locations.  If you understand this complication we may start searching for occupants in different locations.

Example: Searching for an occupant after dark, we may start our search in the living room instead of the bedroom.

The best way of making access to trapped occupants will be to find their primary entrance points.  If the home has filled the space around “normal” access points, such as doorways, they will often enter through windows or other means.  Finding these entrances will be the best place to start looking for a missing person.

Using the only access points will lead you to the “goat paths” throughout the home.   These pathways can lead directly to the occupant.  Warning: using these pathways EMS providers should start a search pattern when looking for occupants and try to keep the belongings in place.  Keeping the debris from falling can be a difficult task as the pathways can be so narrow.

One way of making your travel through the pathways less destructive is to leave your bags outside the environment until the patient has been discovered.  Without our bags across our shoulders it will reduce or profile and keep from knocking the stacks over.  First responders should carry a small bag or the basic CPR mask just in case of impending need of CPR or rescue breathing.  Keeping the bags outside the building will also reduce the need for decontaminating them as well.

EMS providers should use a coordinated search pattern to find the victims, much like firefighters would.  Collapsed belongings could easily hide patients. Utilizing a primary and secondary search can help offer the occupant a larger chance of survival

Primary: Traveling the pathways looking for occupants quickly and efficiently.  The primary search should be a quick and organized search. 

Secondary: Secondary searches should be a slower search where individual piles of collapsed belongings that seem out of place or different should be inspected for occupants.

Review


Hoarding can present many challenges to first responders in all three divisions.  Before entering a hoarded environment you should ensure the potential for occupancy and use an accurate size up to locate the victim.  Finding people that are missing inside the massive amounts of belongings can turn a “routine” check the well being call into a technical rescue inside a Haz-Mat situation.

Start preparing for the call you will receive, not might receive.  Hoarding is found in everyone’s district and it is an area that we need to review.  Use this quick article for some thought stirring discussion and review your department’s policies on entering private residence on check the well being calls.
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Hoarding Firefighting: Lesson from a Live Fire Experience

When firefighters enter a burning building many different factors come into play.  One huge factor that can affect the outcome of the operation is the presence of increased amounts of belongings, caused by a person afflicted with compulsive hoarding disorder.  As their collection of stuff accumulates the danger in hoarding firefighting increases.

[caption id="attachment_882" align="alignright" width="180"]Firefighter Enter Hoarding Firefighter Enter Hoarding


Over the past two years of reaching out to fire departments from around the world some common challenges kept coming up.  Inability to hit the seat of the fire, shielding from the heat , and difficulties in escape were top of the list.  This past weekend the chamber of hoarders had a unique opportunity to enter a “live fire” environment to experience these variables.

With the assistance of the Frontier Fire Company in Wheatfield New York a hoarding environment was set up and multiple scenarios were run.  The results were a confirmation of all the research collected. Each variable was looked at individually and together with great success.  It truly served as a reminder that hoarding changes our operations and if we are unwilling to adjust our operation it may not be successful.

Shielding from the Heat

With many safety measures in place the fire rotations started with a firefighter between the stacks of belongings with a thermal imager.  What we learned was a confirmation and an amazing result. While the other instructors took a beating from the heat in front of and behind the stacks of stuff the inside firefighters documented floor temperatures of 125 degrees with thermal imagining, shielded from the heat.

Documenting these temperatures was an unofficial, non- scientific example of the true dangers of the hoarding environment.  No monitors, measuring equipment, or recording devices were in place, just a group of firefighters with thermal imaging cameras watching something amazing.  The hoard shielded the firefighter from the heat.  It restricted the heat and pushed it past and around.  These results proved a multiple amount of points.

  • Hoarding can give interior firefighters a false sense of environment

  • Shielding can allow firefighters to push further inside without experiencing the normal heat levels

  • Stacks of stuff can trap firefighters

  • Victims can have more survivable thermal temperatures when insulated with hoarding.


With the recent research on flow paths coming to light the need to adjust them for hoarding  firefighting was revealed inside the burn room in New York this past weekend. It reconfirmed the dangers of the insulation provided by the interior conditions.  This insulation can hide the hidden heat and dangers until it’s too late.  Most firefighters advance into burning buildings using their senses to determine how far and deep they are to go.  In hoarding conditions they may keep pushing unaware of the hidden dangers waiting for them. Dangers that could present themselves in the form of rollover, flashover, or backdraft, trapping the firefighters because they don’t have secondary means of egress.

[caption id="attachment_883" align="alignright" width="120"]Hoarding Firefighting Hoarding Firefighting


 Conclusion

Confirmation that the shielding is real was not a surprising result.  This weekend just reconfirmed what we have been learning from survival stories from around the world.  Hoarding conditions can act as an insulator keeping high temperatures away from the victim or firefighter in the middle.  We need to educate firefighters to be aware that this shielding can lead to poor judgment to just how far we should push.

Identify, adjust, and attack when Hoarding is discovered!!!!!!!

 FDIC Flow Path Video. 

 
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Often Ignored Hoarding Dangers

How much risk are you willing to take?  While attending the 2013 Ohio Fire and EMS expo in Columbus Ohio last week it seemed clear that first responders don’t fully understand Hoarding Dangers and how they can affect safety.  Having the opportunity to travel and meet the brave men and women who serve as first responders is a HUGE honor.  In this past week’s travel is where this lack of understanding became crystal clear in these conversations.It’s like clockwork that when someone hears that I am studying responses in Hoarding Conditions they immediately start into a story of a response.  These stories always involve the words “lucky” and/or “fortunately” something happened or it could have been bad.  As an educator these words are like fingernails on a chalkboard.

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="265"] Hoarding Dangers: Glassware Image from http://hoardingwoes.wordpress.com/2012/09/30/hoarding-the-glassware/


I would like to share two conversations that came from Ohio.  Sharing these conversations is not a judgmental or an effort to “bash” anyone, but rather an attempt for everyone to learn from their experience.

Hoarding Danger in Piles:

The most troubling story was, by far, the firefighter who described a fire where they had to crawl over piles and piles of belongings to fight the fire.  They described hoarding at a level 3 and went on to explain that the interior firefighters had to crawl over multiple stacks of belongings to access the fire, which sounded rather small.

The conversation described the difficulties of traversing the stacks and how “lucky” they were to make the fire room and have a successful firefight.  With the hair standing up on the back of my neck I began to question them and after some time the “I never thought of that’s came”.  Often we all don’t think of a certain danger until someone exposes us to it.  Their response is common when dealing with hoarding conditions.  Without being judgmental we should all be exposed to the danger possessed by the stacks of stuff.

Let’s review some of the factors and why firefighters should not crawl over stacks of stuff and exactly how dangerous it is.

  • Stability of the Piles

  • What are the Stacks Comprised of (magazines, books, Glassware)

  • Collapse Risk

  • Entrapment dangers (wires, yarn, extension cords)

  • Weight of the firefighter

  • Need for rapid escape

  • Height of Stacks (putting firefighter closer to the ceiling and hotter temps)


Each of the above danger can place a firefighter in a life or death situation at a moment’s notice.  Mix one with another and a recipe for disaster is on the horizon.

Example: Firefighters making an interior push choose to crawl over a stack of glassware. The weight of each firefighter plus gear added to the instability of the stacks causes a collapse of the stack downward then adding a side collapse covering the firefighters with sharp glass.

You can see the dangers in the above example.  Not knowing what is in the piles of belongings should be the number one reason why we should NOT crawl over stacks of belongings.  Adding the weight of a firefighter to an unstable situation can lead to a mayday.   Do the occupants crawl over the stacks or walk around them?

Occupants use the pathways to access the usable space inside the house and so should we.  Using the “goat paths” for interior access is the safest way to gain interior access without collapsing piles of belongings on beneath the firefighters.  Think about walking to the stage of a theater, would you crawl over the rows of seats or use the isle to access the stage.

It was a Clean Hoarder House:

Another hoarding story from this trip was a assistance call where they described a Clean Hoarder Environment.  This mindset is troubling because of the hidden dangers that may not be seen because of the accumulation of belongings.

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="240"] How clean can it be. Hoarding Dangers


While the environment may look “clean” from the view point of a responder, do we truly know what lies beneath the hoard.  Without access to walls, rooms, and the inability to see the floor do we truly know what’s underneath the stacks of stuff.  The answer is NO.

 

Stacks of belongings in the home can hide dangers for first responders.  Rodents, insects, mold, and animal excrement’s can all be dangerous to responders and all can be hiding beneath stacks of stuff that appear to be clean.  Without the ability to clean and maintain a home, due to the hoarding, the occupant may never truly have the ability to clean, sanitize, or remove problem areas.  This accumulation can be dangerous for them and us.

If you find a hoarding condition that must be entered we MUST assume the worse situation possible and choose to wear our PPE properly.  Assuming that the hoarding area is “clean” is an assumption that can lead to Bio Hazard exposure.  Once discovered we should take the appropriate precautions and choose to wear ALL of our PPE to make sure we don’t care these dangers home to our families.

 

Review:

Emergencies in hoarding conditions should be identified, adjusted for, and then attacked with different approaches by all first responders.  Crawling over debris and not choosing to wear proper PPE are just two dangers that could cause injury or death.  Make the choice to avoid them both when, not if, you are called to enter the hording environment.

 

 
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Hoarding Dangers for First Responders

Hoarder Fire

Since the days of the Collyer Brothers, in Manhattan, first responders have been dealing with the excessive accumulation of belongings caused by compulsive hoarding disorder. We have just “dealt” with the challenges and continued on our way to solve the problem. Today we are seeing an abundance of these types of emergencies.  Many different theories exist on why we are seeing an increase in the number of compulsive hoarders, but without a doubt emergency responders are seeing an, almost, epidemic level of responses inside hoarding conditions.

Compulsive Hoarding disorder is defined as: The accumulation of and failure to discard large amounts of belongings that have little or no value.  This compulsive accumulation eventually takes over their home to where it cannot be used for its intended purpose.

How does this disorder directly affect the first responders?

As the accumulation of belongings start the dangers to the occupants and first responders big to pile up, just like the stacks of stuff.  The challenging environment that follows offers challenges with entry, exit, and an increase in available fuel for a fire.  Along with these challenges firs responders can be faced with multiple biological dangers caused from rodents, human, and animal waste.  Each one of these dangers is major challenges for first responders.

[caption id="attachment_158" align="alignright" width="180"]Photo Courtesy of Twin Cities Fire Wire. Photo Courtesy of Twin Cities Fire Wire.


Who discover these environments?

People that are afflicted with compulsive hoarding disorder are very reclusive and often do not allow people to enter their homes.  Many of these folks feel “embarrassed” or “ashamed” as they are aware of how their disorder is seen by people.  If no one is allowed to enter their home it is common for the first responders are often the first people to discover the conditions. They will keep to themselves until they have a medical emergency, fire, or experience a need to call 911. This call brings the local responders to the environment, often unprepared for what they find.

What are the Cues and Clues that hoarding is Present?

One of the most common questions asked: “Can you tell from the outside of a house that Hoarding conditions exist?”  The answer is, YES.  While it is not a 100% certainty there are some common ques and clues that can lead you to assume that the home is filled with belongings.   Identifying these common clues will lead to a better informed decision making process and adjustments to keep responders safer.

Why did you choose this topic?

Many folks ask why Ryan chose this topic.  Just like many fire departments that call for presentations on this topic my home department ran back to back fires in hoarder conditions.  Much like most to Google I went and what was discovered was amazing, NOTHING.  Keyword searching for Hoarder Fires, Hoarding Firefighting, Hoarding dangers to First Responders, and others resulted in large amounts of documentation of the Mental Health Aspects of this disorder, but no attention was being given to the first responders who go rushing in…

How often are these emergencies happening?

It seems like every day another story of a hoarding emergency is being reported, somewhere in the world.

Here are some links from the Past week:

Baldwin Fire Company

Wayland Massachusetts

Evendale Ohio

These are just three examples in the past number of weeks.

How can the Chamber of Hoarders Learning Center Help?

With training budgets shrinking faster than a sinking ship, we searched for an affordable alternative to offer our class to the fire-ems service.   From these request the chamber of Hoarders Learning Center was born.  It is a 24-7, 365, accessible, and affordable option for responders to sit through 4 plus hours of education.  It can be viewed on mobile, desktop, tablet, or any device with internet access.chamber_hoarders_special_offer

Do you travel to present?

Yes, Ryan Pennington has presented his program to over 600 first responders in 2013.  If you are interested in hosting a program contact  Ryan33@suddenlink.net  Make sure to watch the presentation page for upcoming dates of presentations
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Hoarder Fire Case Study

Hoarding Firefighting Case Study




Here is a case study of a Cluttered House fire from Wayland Massachusetts.  This is a small glimpse of the complete study that will be added to the Chaberofhoarders.com learning center.

In this Hoarder Fire case many points are reviewed as the firefighters battled a "cluttered" condition.  We would like to thank Kyle Marcinkiewicz  for submitting these great photos and description.  You will find more about this fire inside the Learning Center.

 

 

Make sure to visit Kyle's Website to see more Pictures

kjmphotography.zenfolio.com 
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Cluttered House Fire

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="281"] Cluttered Fire Picture credit KHOU.com


HARRIS COUNTY, Texas –- Firefighters said clutter inside a westside home hindered their efforts to put out an overnight blaze.

The fire was reported on Paso Dobble Drive at Paso Del Sol Drive around 12:30 a.m. Friday, according to officials with the Community Volunteer Fire Department in Mission Bend.

A couple inside the home made it out safely and drove to a nearby fire station to ask for help.

Firefighters found fire inside the home’s kitchen and made a fast attack to get it under control. They said parts of the dining and living rooms were also damaged, however. Officials said they had trouble fighting the fire because clutter in the home was blocking the front door.

The Harris County Fire Marshal is investigating what started the blaze

Read more Here 
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Hoarder Firefighting: In a mess, use your PASS

[caption id="attachment_40" align="alignright" width="180"]Hoarder Fire Hoarder fire. Picture Courtesy of sdfirephotos.com


Are you prepared to call a mayday, right now?  One of the most often asked question from my students is how do you know when you should call a mayday.  The answer always comes back to, anytime you can’t get yourself out or find yourself in need of assistance, PERIOD!  There are many situations that require a firefighter calling the mayday and one that holds true is a firefighter who finds themselves inside the trenches of a Hoarder Home.  Without knowing, an interior structural firefighter can find themselves with stacks of belongings that can extend up to ceiling level causing a huge problem in advancing hoses, searching for victims, and any other fire ground tasks.

How far do you push into these conditions?  At what point do you call a mayday?

These are two questions that should be considered by the individual firefighter while using some common variables.

  • How high are the stacks of Stuff

  • Are we experiencing small collapse of belongings


How high:


Determining the level of belongings can alter an interior attack.  Making this determination can be the challenge due to smoke conditions. Using the stream of your hose or an extended hand tool can give you an estimate of how high the stacks are.  If you carry a 24-36 in haligan you could use it to sweep above your head to determine the height.  If you choose this technique you will need to be mindful of the location of the other firefighters with you.

Either choice of techniques should be used with caution as the resulting collapse could cover up unannounced victims, secondary means of egress, or uncover hidden pockets of fire.  Most often the only part of the hoarder stacks that are burning are the top layer.  By knocking over the stacks you could expose more fuel, maybe even more flammable fuels such as newspapers that were once insulated from the heat source.

Collapsing Stuff:


Whether it’s caused by your sweeping tool or just by itself falling debris should be considered when inside the hoarder environments.  Often the pathways, or “goat paths” , that traverse the interior of the hoarding can be narrowed to a level that causes the advancing firefighter to knock stuff over, just by traveling through them.

 Hoarding Mess:


These two variables should be considered if you find yourself inside the hoarder environment.  Both can cause an added level of danger to an interior firefighter. Often, hoarding conditions can NOT be identified from the exterior of a building.  This can expose an interior firefighter to the dangers once they have passed the point of no return (5 feet inside a structure).

If you find yourself in this condition take these two variables into consideration when determining how far you want to push inside.

If you are experiencing ceiling level stuff or collapsing debris it might not be a fight that you want to take on. Even worse, if these conditions cause you to become disoriented, entangled or low on air make sure that you are ready to call the mayday and activate your pass alarm.  It is better to call and cancel the mayday, than to find yourself in a collapsed stack of stuff and running out of air.

If you’re in a mess, use your pass and make sure that hoarding doesn’t trap you inside without a way to escape a rapidly progressing fire condition!

If you would like to learn more about hoarder firefighting make sure to check out the Learning Center here on ChambeofHoarders.com.   4 + hours of content on Hoarder Firefighting 
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Hoarder Fires Size Up

Hoarder Fires


Welcome to the first video from the ChamberofHoarders.com.  This short video is a look into the new exciting online learning that will be released soon!  The Chamber of Hoarders Online Learning Center will be a 24/7 access to hoarding education for first responders.

Keep up to date on the new online learning center by signing up for our email blasts.
Click here to sign up.   We hope you enjoy our first video.

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Overhead View of Hoarder Homes

Without a doubt, the number one question asked is “How can I tell if the home is a Hoarder Home”.  The answer: You will need to look for the Cues and Clues of Clutter. If you are driving your district, running medical emergencies, or driving home from work you should be on the lookout for the hoarded homes in your district.  Knowing the conditions BEFORE a fire happens will make you better prepared when you arrive.  How do you find a hoarder home?  Let’s look and a new approach to identifying a clutter home in your district.

Street Level View

As we drive the streets in our districts we should be on the lookout for unique challenges.  These include a hoarder home and the potential for a response.  When driving past these homes you should be looking out for some typical cues:

  • Hoarded front yards

  • Large privacy fence covering back yard

  • Cluttered front porches

  • Blocked windows

  • Overgrown shrubs, bushes or trees

  • Multiple vehicles in yard that are full


These cues and clues should trigger a need for further investigation.  If you suspect one or more of the above you should begin to investigate a little deeper, but how?

[caption id="attachment_543" align="aligncenter" width="300"]Aerial view of a Cluttered House Aerial view of a Cluttered House


Overhead View

Without an invitation or a need we cannot enter your property but the eye in the sky always knows.  Taking to your computer and using tools such as Google earth can let you get a bird’s eye view of the property to confirm your suspicions.  Find a point of interest, address, or something to give you a reference point and view the property from overhead.  This perspective will allow you to view the backyard, side yard, and potentially the windows without physically walking the property.

 Read More about Pre-Fire Planning Here:

http://chamberofhoarders.com/3-things-your-department-should-do-about-hoarding/

 

Read more about Non-Fire Dangers in Hoarder Homes Here:

http://chamberofhoarders.com/hoarder-homes-more-dangers-than-fire/
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