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January 9, 2012 Previous day Next day

In hoarding households, blocked windows and exits can make fire attack and rescue difficult for the fire service.

A particular concern of the fire service is the chaotic nature of the material in many hoarding households, where blocked windows and exits can make fire attack and rescue difficult. (Photo: Newscom)

The cover story in the January/February 2012 issue of NFPA Journal® takes an in-depth look at the fire and life safety issues related to compulsive hoarding, an important social problem that has received a lot of attention recently. In "The Dangers of Too Much Stuff," writer Stephanie Schorow reports on how the fire service is teaming up with a range of human service agencies in communities across the country to address the issue of compulsive hoarding, a psychological disorder that studies suggest could afflict as many as 15 million Americans. Here's a snippet:

Compulsive hoarding isn’t new, but a growing awareness of the problem — and changing public attitudes toward it — may allow firefighters to play a significant role in recognizing and even ameliorating dangerous hoarding situations. "Firefighters and public fire safety educators in the United States and Canada are often faced with challenges on the best ways to prevent fires related to hoarding,’’ said Sharon Gamache, NFPA’s program director for high-risk outreach programs. "No one wants to see injuries or loss of life among civilians or firefighters as a result of fire hazards that may exist in hoarding situations."

And here's another:

While the relationship between hoarding and fire safety has yet to be fully documented — NFPA, for example, does not maintain specific data on hoarding-related fires — the work of social scientists and the anecdotal reports of the fire service are gradually combining to reveal an important fire threat.

A 2009 Australian study found that hoarding fires are tougher to fight, and are far deadlier, than other types of residential fires. The data show that fires in hoarding homes have similar ignition sources as other fires, but that packed rooms can significantly complicate the fire attack. Basic rules of firefighting may not apply; firefighters are trained to look for the seat of the fire, but a hoarding household may present firefighters with a logistical nightmare, forcing them to wade through or crawl over stuff in an effort to find the ignition source. "You can’t search the normal way," noted Bill Cummings, a captain in the Shrewsbury (Massachusetts) Fire Department and a 35-year veteran firefighter. "You can’t find the walls because there’s too much stuff. You wouldn’t even know where you were if the place were filled with smoke."

The package includes a nine-step "clutter image rating scale," findings from the eye-opening 2009 Australia study, and much more. See the full article.  

-Scott Sutherland, NFPA Journal editor

NFPA JournalThe latest edition of the NFPA Journal® has been released for January and February focusing on the issue of Life Safety and Health Care through an abundance of articles relating to the matter.

The cover story “The Dangers of Too Much Stuff” explores the dangerous relationship between hoarding and fire safety. NFPA’s own Sharon Gamache, Director of NFPA’s High Risk Outlook Programs, discuses the many fire dangers related with compulsive hoarding, also detailing several resources responders can use when dealing with someone with an issue of hoarding.

The edition goes on to discuss the issue of operating room fires, describing the new FDA initiative that is teaching health care professionals the causes of operating room fires in the article “Operation Fire Safety”.

Another issue brought up in this month’s latest NFPA Journal® the safety of our hospitals heliports, which are beset by a range of safety issues. The article, “Heliport Help” states that the proponents of safer heliports call for stronger regulations designed to ensure heliport safety. 

Read the full issue of NFPA Journal here

http%3A%2F%2Fwww.nfpa.orgScald burn tip sheetNFPA and the Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors are urging the public to be cautious when handling hot liquids and soups. Scald burns are the second leading cause of all burn injuries and children, older adults and people with disabilities are especially at risk.

“In winter, there’s nothing as comforting as a warm cup of soup,” said Lorraine Carli, vice president of communications for NFPA. “But if you’re not careful this simple meal can turn painful.”

Scald burns are the second leading cause of all burn injuries. According to the study “Instant cup of soup: design flaws increase risk of burns” released by the Journal of Burn Care & Research, prepackaged microwavable soups, especially noodle soups, are a frequent cause of scald burn injuries because they can easily tip over, pouring hot liquid and noodles on the person.

To help prevent scald injuries, NFPA and the Phoenix Society offer some safety tips:

  • Teach children that hot things can burn.
  • Test the water at the faucet. It should be less than 100 degrees Fahrenheit (49 degrees Celsius).
  • Always supervise a child in or near a bathtub.  Before placing a child in the bath or getting in the bath yourself, test the water. Test the water by moving your hand, wrist and forearm through the water. The water should feel warm, not hot, to the touch.
  • Place hot liquids and food in the center of a table or toward the back of a counter.
  • Have a “kid-free zone” of at least 3 feet (1 meter) around the stove and areas where hot food or drink is prepared or carried. Never hold a child while you are cooking, drinking a hot liquid, or carrying hot foods or liquids.
  • Allow microwaved food to cool before eating and open it slowly, away from the face.
  • Choose prepackaged soups whose containers have a wide base or, to avoid the possibility of a spill, pour the soup into a traditional bowl after heating.
  • Treat a burn right away. Cool the burn with cool water for 3-5 minutes.  Cover with a clean, dry cloth. Get medical help if needed.

For more information on reducing the risk of these types of burns, view NFPA’s scald prevention tip sheet. 

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