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

Continue reading
3579 Hits
0 Comments

Hoarder Fire Case Study Elyria Ohio

Hoarder Fire Case Study Elyria Ohio

Location: Elyria Ohio
Responding Agency: Elyria Fire Department
Event Date: January 18, 2015
Event Type: Working Structure fire with Victim Trapped Location: Skylark Court Elyria Ohio
Time:1600 Hours b2ap3_thumbnail_Elyria-Hoarder-Fire-North-Coast-now-.jpg

Approximately 1600 hours on January 18th the Elyria Ohio fire department was alerted to a house fire.  The initial dispatch was directed to an industrial area with a large warehouse structure and first arriving unit advised nothing showing. Updated dispatch information redirected the responding units to the correct address and also advised the responding chief of confirmed occupant trapped.  Dispatch also passed along information from the caller that the occupant was a “Hoarder”and they could see visible flames. 

Engine 3 arrived on scene with smoke showing throughout the structure with the heaviest amounts seen from division 2. Engine 3 chose and offensive posture with 1 3/4 sized line for primary search and fire control. Ladder 7 advised heaviest fire division 2 side c while chief 3 instructed them to ventilate vertically.  Rescue 31 directed for occupant search and rescue. Supply line was established by engine 4.  An unknown unit advised chief 3 of an awning that is compromised by fire with “a lot of trash underneath it”.  

Upon hearing that report Chief 3 ordered an emergency manpower recall.  Shortly thereafter Chief 3 was advised fire was extending to upper floors and roof.  A transitional attack was used after the discovery of fire extension the roof area.  Chief 3 then requests a MABAS box alarm assignment 1341 to respond and stand bye.  Second due company advised they were unavailable due to another assignment.  Chief 3 then advised the box would be sufficient without them and requested the fire prevention and training officer to the seen.  

Shortly after that transmission unknown member advised the chief of fire on side C “coming through the vent hole”.  At the 20 minute mark Chief 3 described their operation as a “marginal offensive attack”having difficulty making entry and are unable to locate the victim.  Chief 3 a then advised of heavy fire in the awning area again.  Additional units began to respond from the call back.  At the 40 minute mark Chief 3 announced that they were going defensive due to the amount of stuff inside. 

(The above information obtained from the command channel audio files. )

Operational functions Overview 

Initial alarm assignments chose and aggressive interior posture for search and fire control.  These crews were met with hoarding conditions with pathways as means of traveling between rooms.  There initial tactical objective was to search the upstairs of the home, where they believed the occupant was located.  What they found in the process of making entry to division 2 (the upstairs) is that it was full of belongings with no pathways.  Upon this realization the crews began to use VES procedures (vent, enter, search) to gain access to the rooms via outside windows. 

During this process firefighters had to remove multiple tress to gain access to the windows. They chose the oriented search as ways of positive location management, due to the walls being unusable for orientation.  

Firefighters also began to search on the first floor where one truck company captain described conditions changing from moderate to severe in a shorter than normal time period.  He also describe the stacks being so high at one point his “air pack was dragging the ceiling.”  With the combined efforts of fire control and search proving to be ineffective Chief 3 ordered all firefighters out of the building and into a defensive posture.  

Once out of the structure Chief 3 requested an excavator to the scene for building demolition and to search for the occupant.  They were able to locate the victim, under debris, on the first floor. The victim had the house so full of belongings that she could no longer use the second floor and had retreated to the first floor for day to day living. 

Overhaul and building demolition continued for hours and the aftermath is beyond words.  

Conclusion

The fire that occurred in Elyria Ohio is a remarkable case study of success. While the occupant was not saved the operations used sound fire ground practices and aggressive procedures to contain the fire and preform a search.  Risk versus reward was constantly used and communication was affective during the entire operation.  One of the biggest learning points from this particular fire is the incident commander and his control over the fire scene.  By effectively communicating with the operational firefighters everyone understood their assignments, performed accordingly, and came home safe.  Very few suggestions for improvement are seen from the operational standpoint, but more towards having a common reporting system that can lead to affective pre fire planning.  

Elyria Successes 
  • Dispatch advised crews of Hoarding Conditions
  • Strong Command presence 
  • Great communication from interior to command and back 
  • Interior crews minimized firefighters inside 
  • Basic Fire ground functions were assigned and performed 
  • Additional Firefighters called in quickly 
  • 20 Minute updates and reports given and used 
  • Constant updates from around the structure 
  • Defensive operations initiated in a timely fashion
  • Excavators called in 

  • Elyria Opportunities 

 

  • Initiate a Pre Plan Process (Building officials had visited homes multiple times)
  • Utilize Police, Fire, Ems, and utilities to locate and identify Hoarding Conditions
  • Initiate common terminology to describe conditions (Suggested “Heavy Content”)

 

Download the full report Below 

Elyria-Hoarding-Fire-Case-Study-.pdf

 

 

Continue reading
6637 Hits
0 Comments

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.

Continue reading
4853 Hits
0 Comments

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.
Continue reading
3316 Hits
71 Comments

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. 

 
Continue reading
1483 Hits
6 Comments

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.

 

 
Continue reading
1377 Hits
5 Comments

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
Continue reading
2479 Hits
5 Comments

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 
Continue reading
1391 Hits
0 Comments

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 
Continue reading
1242 Hits
0 Comments

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 
Continue reading
1277 Hits
18 Comments

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.

Continue reading
1388 Hits
0 Comments

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/
Continue reading
3947 Hits
64 Comments

24 Hours and 2 Hoarder Fires

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="223"]Pic from silive.com New York City Hoarder Fire


Hoarding fire Staten Island

STATEN ISLAND , N.Y. -- City firefighters rescued 30 small dogs from a blaze that ignited in a two-story home -- apparently owned by a "hoarder" -- in the Clifton section of the borough.

The call about a fire at 3 Bowen Street came in at 9:29 p.m. It was under control by 9:59 p.m., said an FDNY spokeswoman.

"It looks like there was a Colliers' mansion condition in the house; that's what we call a hoarder's house," said an FDNY spokeswoman.

Read More

http://www.silive.com/news/index.ssf/2013/08/fdny_rescues_30_dogs_during_a.html

[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="270"]Photo from local12.com Hoarder Fire


Firefighters are battling fire at the home of a hoarder in Evendale. The fire broke out Friday around 1:30 pm at 3520 Glendale Milford Road. Crews from Evendale, Glendale and Springdale have been called to help fight the fire. Firefighters were forced to take up a defensive position when they could not get through the front door because of the hoarding. There are no reports of injuries.

Read More at: http://www.local12.com/news/features/top-stories/stories/fire-at-hoarders-home-evendale-1471.shtml

Continue reading
1401 Hits
0 Comments

Common findings: Hoarding Conditions on a Medical Call





[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="300"] Picture from MetroDailynews.com



FRAMINGHAM —




For the second time in 16 months, authorities are investigating hoarding at a Winter Street home.

On Tuesday, the fire department went to 124 Winter St. for a medical call around 1:15 p.m. after the 83-year-old man who lived in the home was found on the ground outside, Deputy Fire Chief Anthony Pillarella said.

"Inside of the home there was unhealthy conditions," the deputy chief said.

Pillarella would not describe the conditions in the home, only to say, "They were bad enough that we called the Board of Health and the police."

Because the man was not home when the Board of Health arrived, they could not enter the home without his permission, the deputy chief said. The man was taken to MetroWest Medical Center in Framingham to be evaluated and treated.

A Framingham police crime scene photographer, wearing booties over his normal shoes, took photos inside the home.

Read more Information Here:

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

http://chamberofhoarders.com/managing-the-mess-can-we-really-go-inside/



Read more: http://www.metrowestdailynews.com/news/x1837074408/Framingham-investigates-hoarding-at-Winter-Street-home#ixzz2ccHL1Fdd
Continue reading
1140 Hits
0 Comments

Hoarder Home: If you see something, say something!

Welcome back into the chamber of hoarders.  After some time away we are back and well into summer preparing emergency responders to face the challenges of compulsive hoarding disorder environments.  This week we are going to look back at a training topic that we have visited before, with a new twist.  It is vitally important to allow firefighters to communicate their findings on each response; this is even truer when faced with massive amounts of clutter found inside hoarder homes.  From pulling on scene to making a interior attack, each and every firefighter should be taught what to say, who to say it too, and how to say it when a hoarding environment is suspected.  Example, “ interior to command we are experiencing Heavy Content”, “command received.”  Often this is where this line of communication ends, not allowing incoming units or firefighters that didn’t receive this message aware of the potential for danger.  It’s time for us to change how we process, receive, and announce situations.

 

[caption id="attachment_388" align="alignright" width="275"]Courtesy of Oxford Pa Fire Department Courtesy of Oxford Pa Fire Department


Firefighter Level

Being the eyes and ears of the responders is a role that each firefighter should be given.  Constantly scanning, evaluating, and searching for potential dangers should be trained on until they become automatic. During this training is where we should introduce them to cues and clues that a hoarding situation is present.



Here are a few:

  • Blocked doors and Windows

  • Cluttered yards or Porches

  • Cars Full of Belongings


If you encounter any of these situations a message should be transmitted to command.  Announcing the presence of hoarding conditions will put everyone in a more defensive mindset and allow the commander to call for additional resources.  Extra manpower, more apparatus, and needed rehab sector are all areas that need reinforced when dealing with hoarder conditions.  If the IC doesn’t know they need them, why would they call for them?  Make the call, even if you are wrong.  If they are not needed they can be released and returned to service.

 

 

 

Incident Commanders

Being in command of a fire when the announcement of heavy contents is made requires some direct actions.  First action is to communicate the findings to the dispatch center to share the message with everyone responding and on scene. Second action is to call for more help.  With hoarding conditions firefighters air consumption will be greater, thus lowering their work time and will need a longer rehab period because of the stresses placed on them while working in these overloaded spaces.  Knowing this a commander should request additional units to respond to the scene. Third action should be a second rapid intervention team.  If a firefighter is inside and experiences a Mayday, it will require a larger number of firefighters to access and remove them.

A good rule of thumb for any commander is the rule of doubles.  If you discover hoarding double the number of firefighters, RIT team members, and double the rehab time allowing your firefighters to adequately recover from the larger workload. The worst thing that you could do is place your firefighters into a stressful environment and not allow them time to recover before going back.

Conclusion

If you see something, say something!

If you hear something, Dispatch Something!

 

If you allow your firefighters to make the announcement of a potential hoarding situation it will allow all commanders to use the rule of doubles and call for the help needed.  Hoarding can place us all at a greater risk do to the compression of belongings that has taken years to accumulate.  Make the adjustments if you are faced with these conditions and make sure we all go home!
Continue reading
1078 Hits
0 Comments

Hoarding in the News....Worldwide

Some amazing stories from Fire Departments around the World have been released in the last week.  Here are some links to some challenging repsonses inside hoarding conditions.



 

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-tees-22629605

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2328960/Coroner-criticises-TV-shows-making-light-hoarding-pensioner-trapped-piles-rubbish-dies-blaze.html?ito=feeds-newsxml

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2323959/Mummified-body-Chicana-author-New-Mexico-home-dead-year.html

 

Continue reading
1392 Hits
0 Comments

Hoarder Fire Training



On Saturday May 11,2013 Jumpseat Training brought a new level of training to the West Virginia Public Safety Expo in Charleston WV.  Expanding their wildly popular classroom session, Hoarder Home's Piles of Hazards for Firefighters, to include a hands on session.  Evolution's within simulated Hoarding conditions added a new level of learning and perspective to the class. This was the first time for "hands on" evolution on Hoarder Fire Training.

Allowing students to experience the challenges faced with hoarding conditions took the learning to the next level.  When firefighters are faced with hoarding conditions they must change how they operate to remain oriented to their location and adjust how the search inside these conditions.

Many great learning points were discovered by students and instructors. Jumpseat Training would like to send out a HUGE thank you to the foll0wing supporters for making this session a overwhelming success:

WV Public Safety Expo

Resa III

Drager Thermal Imaging

BullEx Smoke Generator 

Darin Virag, Training Captain Charleston WV Fire Department

FoxFury Lighting Solutions 

FDcam.com

Look for more hands on training from Jumpseat Training Soon!

 

 
Continue reading
1372 Hits
0 Comments

Hoarder Fire Rekindles 3-Times

One complication that firefighters face inside a home that has hoarding conditions is the need for extensive overhaul.  Stacks of compressed belongings can lead to an extended overhaul and often will reveal hidden pockets of fire.  This news video shows an example of the complications of overhauling a hoarder fire as they were called back three times for rekindles.  There are only a few options when dealing with hoarder fires and overhaul.  Keep an eye out soon for more from ChamberofHoarders.com

 

News9.com - Oklahoma City, OK - News, Weather, Video and Sports |

 

Here is a Link to a previous article on Overhauling Hoarder Fires 
Continue reading
1210 Hits
0 Comments

Clutter Fire in Bakersfield California



Story From 23ABCnews Bakersfield 

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. - A messy home made for difficult conditions during an early-morning fire in Northwest Bakersfield.

The fire started at approximately 2:00 a.m. Tuesday in the attic of a small house on Gulf Street.

Firefighters with the Kern County Fire Department said they had a hard time locating the home's address.  The house was built in a primarily industrial area north of Gilmore Drive and west of Highway 99.

When crews arrived on-scene, they said the firefighting effort was made difficult because the home was cluttered with lots of items.

A woman living inside the home managed to escape unharmed.  No firefighters were injured in the blaze, and there is no estimate on damages.
Continue reading
1213 Hits
0 Comments

Heavy Content: Choosing the Right Words

[caption id="attachment_114" align="alignright" width="300"]Hoarder Fire Photo Courtesy of Keven Smith Hoarder Fire Photo Courtesy of Keven Smith


During the past two years I have spent much time and energy studying all aspects of emergency responses inside hoarding conditions.  There is one key point that consistently comes up, interacting with the occupants.  Hoarding or “Compulsive Hoarding” is “the accumulation of and failure to discard a large number of objects that seem to be useless or of limited value, extensive clutter in living spaces that prevents the effective use of the space causing significant distress or impairment caused by hoarding” (Frost and Hartl..1996). The affects of someone having  this disorder takes away the ability to make rational decisions, making process to distinguish between an item with no apparent value and one of great value (example: grocery store coupon vs. baby pictures).   This compulsive behavior can cause problems with first responders when faced with a hoarding situation.  Interaction can prove difficult first due to the unwillingness to leave and second the emotional trauma of strangers touching their “treasures”, understanding and adjusting for these situations is our job to figure out before we run this call.  The first adjustment need to be the terminology that we use.  Let us look at why we should change our terminology to include “Heavy Content” when describing a hoarded environment.


Politically Correct


A very well respected friend of mine that is in a different career once looked me straight in the eye and said “you must be jaded because of all you have seen and dealt with”.  After I digested that statement I realized that is exactly what happens. We are jaded by the countless number of tragic events that we deal with on a daily basis and it most often affects how we interact with someone who is encountering an emergency.   The very first thing that happens to set the tone of the call is how we present our self; this includes body language and the terminology that we choose.  “This is a trash house” or “pack rat conditions” are two terms that first responders use when the discovery of hoarding conditions are found.   How would these terms be received if the occupant overheard their house full of treasures called “trash”?  If someone called you a “pack rat” how would you feel?  They are unable to see their surroundings in your perspective, but it is important for the brief time you spend on the call that you try to see it from theirs.

It is good to remind ourselves of the characteristics of compulsive hoarding disorder.  There is deep emotional attachment to belongings, with the inability to distinguish between trash and treasures.  This compulsion can cause an overload to the occupant if they overheard these terms broadcasted over the radio or yelled out the window.  “Hey chief, this in the interior crews, we have a “trash house”!  this statement seems to be a popular description.  All it would take would be one radio being around the occupants to have a potential for an emergency for them or you.  There have been documented cases of occupants needing to be physically restrained from trying to re-enter a burning home to save their treasures.  Another potential danger is the reaction of the occupant in a violent manner towards the first responders.  Wouldn’t it make all of our shifts easier if we took away this easy negative and replaced it with such an easy fix.

 

Being as compassionate as possible during all emergencies is the best practice scenario for all of us, this remains true when dealing with the occupants of a hoarded environment.  Occupant safety is the biggest concern of any first responder and when the problem is a compulsive hoarder; words can be just as harmful as flames.  Removing terms such as trash house and pack rat conditions will help provide a more neutral environment for the occupant while standardizing the terminology used by first responders.

Heavy Content:  A key term


Another key factor in dealing with hoarded conditions is the amount of belongings and the weight exerted on the structural supports of the building.  Collecting a large amount of belongings can lead to an overloaded structure, even before the first ounce of water is applied.  Using the term “heavy content” should remind all first responders of the overloading potential and collapse risks associated with dealing with a hoarded environment.

A heavy content environment can offer many potential for a collapse, this is usually wither from interior debris falling to a complete collapse of the entire structure.   When a building is over loaded with massive amounts of stuff it has the potential to injure or kill first responders.  Using the heavy content terminology to identify these potential risks should put all responders at a heighten level of awareness to be looking for collapse.  It should also evoke  a thought process needed to identify what is being collected inside the building.  Identifying items such as books, magazines, or car parts can help with the collapse risk assessment.   Another factor that can be used is a hoarding level scale such as the Institute for Challenging Disorganization rating scale of 1-5.  If a level 5 is determined, a No-Entry decision may be the best option.

Conclusion:


Emergency responders are dealing with compulsive hoarding disorder on a daily basis.  There is a huge difference in terminology used worldwide used when describing hoarded conditions, but there is huge effort to change that.  From “Colliers Mansion Syndrome” to “Pack Rat” conditions it seems like your terminology is based on a geographic locations.  It’s time that we standardized terminology to allow us all to understand the conditions, even if we are not familiar with the term.  Heavy Content should be used worldwide to allow a standard, politically correct term to describe these conditions.  It offers cues to us all, even if you have never heard of the term before.  Being mindful of the compulsion and trying to remain respectful to it will allow us to have an improved public perception and protect ourselves from the potential for confrontation with the occupants.

Continue reading
4767 Hits
0 Comments
View Store

Online Training Store

Find our DVDs and downloadable training material online here.

Go to top