[caption id="attachment_152" align="alignleft" width="158"] Hoarder FIre
continually comes up. What are the most important things my department should do if we are faced with a hoarding condition? Great question, there are many things that need to change when faced with responses in “heavy content” environments. Let us take a few moments to review three things that your department should do if you suspect or discover a hoarding conditions in your response area.
Identify potential conditions:
Identification of hoarding is the first step in making a safer environment. If you suspect or discover a hoarding environment, spread the word to all members of your department. Flag the structure with the dispatch center as a “heavy content” structure and begin the preplan process.
Pre planning for Hoarder Response:
- Identify the level of content 1-5
- establishing likely living spaces
- estimating structural compromise
- identifying blocked windows and doors
- Determine needed water flow if the house was to become “fully involved”
Many of these steps can be accomplished from the exterior and some may need to be from the interior. The best time to allow for access to the interior is in the event of a medical emergency. Once patient care is complete take time to look around or observe while entering to identify the dangers.
Prepare for the inevitable:
Once you have identified a Heavy Content building in your area the preparation for a fire needs to begin. By preparing your department’s pre-fire plan and reviewing response changes with your personnel. Just like any pre-planned business or multi-family dwelling, you should review and adjust your plan twice a year. The heavy content environment can change on a monthly basis as the hoarder collects more belongings, the structure experiences more degradation, and access points become hard to access.
A study from the Melbourne Australia Fire Department and the Wooster Polytechnic Institute showed that only 26% of hoarder houses had working smoke alarms and most fires started as cooking fires. This means that the likelihood of a fire happening are increased due to the amount of fire hazard present inside these environments, so be prepared.
Protect your Members
Now that you have identified and prepared the members of your department it is time to offer them some advice to help keep them safe.
Let us review some tips to prepare them:
- Use your PPE
- Order additional resources if dispatched to a heavy content address
- Use the risk/reward mentality in deciding if interior is an option
- Don’t be afraid to keep the firefighters out of the building
Dealing with responses in hoarding conditions is a complicated situation that requires tactical changes. These quick tips will start you down the road to a successful operation. Protecting our responders is job one on any scene, on a hoarding scene it should stand out even further as the dangers are increased.
Take a moment to review these three tips with your department to start the process of Expecting Hoarding. With the number of people affected by this disorder growing, the chances that you will be faced with them grow as well. We all should stand ready to take on this disorder and help the folks that are afflicted. But even more we should prepare our first responders to make sure we all go home……..