Hoarding May Have Contributed to NY LODD

Source: EMR-ISAC

The on-duty death of a New York City firefighter at the beginning of July may have been related to the state of the Brooklyn apartment in which he died. New York fire officials aren’t discussing details due to the ongoing investigation, but did say the apartment was “heavily cluttered.”

Hoarding, considered a compulsive disorder, gets more attention now than it used to partly because of the popular A&E TV show, but for first responders the outcome of such behavior is not entertaining. Responding to a residence for a fire or medical emergency and coming face to face with walls of newspapers, plastic bottles, food, and trash – sometimes stacked near the ceiling – is dangerous and deadly.

Some considerations when dealing with life safety and hoarding situations:

  • Fuel load increases with the amount and type of possessions;
  • Stacks and piles will either impede exits or block them altogether;
  • Smoke can make the interior maze difficult to navigate;
  • Smoke detectors or sprinklers can be nonfunctioning or blocked;
  • It may be impossible to get a stretcher to a medical patient;
  • Falling objects or piles can bury residents or responders;
  • Excess weight on floors can cause them to fail faster during a fire.

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) presented about this topic at their 2012 conference and has a free guide on hoarding and the fire service.