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To knock over or to crawl over is a question that keeps coming up in my research into fighting fires in Hoarder Homes. Over the past year hoarding conditions has had everyone’s attention due to a very successful television show bringing new questions around. The question that seems to keep coming up is “do I knock over the piles of belongings or crawl over them? This is a complex question that needs looked at from a couple different angles. Every hoarder fire will be bringing a different set of challenges that has questions needing answered before you can make this decision. Let’s take a look at what an aggressive interior firefighter must consider before you determine to crawl over the piles of clutter.
Factor number 1: Victim Profile
We all are aware of saving victims being our number one priority. This is a common statement that needs addressed when considering knocking over piles of debris. You should consider occupancy type, time of day, and cars in the driveway to decide chances of trapped occupants. All three of these factors remain constant from a “normal” fire with one more consideration to add. Hoarders are often reclusive in nature and occasionally don’t leave their home for extended amounts of time. With this in mind you should consider that just because there isn’t a vehicle in the driveway or it’s the middle of the day a trapped occupant is possibly inside. Let’s say it’s the middle of the day and no cars are in the driveway. Additional information needs collected about the occupant once you have identified hoarder conditions. Most of the time there will be people who live around the hoarded home to offer information on occupancy. Interviewing bystanders will help you asses if people are inside or not. Often they will be able to tell you about the habits of the occupant and if they are “usually” there during that time of the day.
Here is the quandary about knocking the piles over. You run the risk of covering a victim up with the belongings. A hoarder can have piles of belongings to the waist level making it near impossible to enter, especially into a zero visibility environment. If there is any chance of a victim being inside you do everything possible keep the piles in place to avoid covering them up increasing the opportunity to find them. Just like in any situation a Thermal imaging camera will be a high priority tool that aids in the search between the piles.
Stay tuned to the Chamberofhoarders.com for the rest of this complex decision-making problem…..