Entryway hoarding fire hazzardHoarding disorders are not a result of being lazy or disorganized. Compulsive hoarding is a complex anxiety disorder that makes it difficult for a person to discard or part with possessions, even if they appear to have little or no value. Homes of those with a hoarding disorder pose significant dangers; from health hazards to fire safety and code violations. If you or a loved one suffer from a hoarding compulsion, it is important to be aware of the risks and what you can do about them.

The Collyer brothers were perhaps the most notable individuals with the disorder. The two lived in Harlem, New York in the 1940s. Unfortunately, they both died in the home surrounded by their hoard. It is theorized that one of the brothers fell victim to a pile of crushing debris, leaving his paralyzed brother to fend for himself. Firefighters have coined the term "Collyers' Mansion Condition" to flag homes that are known for hoarding conditions and may put the firefighter's lives at risk. Sadly, these situations happen all too often. 

 

 

Hoarding Dangers

  • Blocked doors and windows make fire rescue efforts difficult. In these situations, firefighters must find an alternative means of entering the building, often through windows on the second floor with the use of a ladder. Once inside, they face wall-to-wall clutter with cramped hallways. Navigating the clutter in heavy, smokey conditions, in the pitch dark, creates 'maze-like' conditions. If rescue teams have trouble entering the home, it is just as difficult for the home's occupants to escape a fire with blocked exits. 

Related: Creating a Fire Escape Plan 

 

  • Water leaks may go unnoticed. If not found and fixed quickly, water damage can lead to mold growth that pollutes the air quality and impact the health of the residents. Water and mold damage left sitting can begin to rot away at the structure. The structure, already weakened by the damage, is intensified by the weight of the hoard. 

 

  • Many hoarders are resistant to allowing contractors to enter the home to make repairs. A home that is classified as a 4 or 5 level on the hoarding scale indicates that extreme clutter is present and living spaces are unusable. Toilets, tubs, and sinks are unusable and major appliances are broken or inaccessible. Without working appliances or utilities, like a stove or heating system, the person will resort to unsafe practices. Using electric appliances such as space heaters and toaster ovens which can easily be placed too close to flammable materials. Running extension cords under contents or overloading the electrical system are also fire hazards. 

 Related: How to Keep Warm and Prevent Space Heater Fires

 

  •  Accumulation of so many items and garbage leads to vermin and pest infestations. Mice droppings and urine residue is a biohazard and can spread disease. It may be difficult to clean up after pets, especially if there are more pets then the homeowner can handle. 

How We Can Help

  • Understanding, listening and connecting. Our goal is to keep the home clean, so we make the effort to fully understand the problem before proceeding. We work with the family and hoarder to make sure everyone is on board, always keeping the hoarder in charge. We build trust over time and show our customers full respect. 
  • Creating a plan, cleaning, sorting. We develop a cleaning plan that serves as a road map to the entire cleanout. We help reorganize spaces and remaining possessions. Our teams handle all the details, including donations, recycling, and disposal of unwanted items, and help families sanitize items kept in the home. We can also sort, document and help deliver donated items to the customer's selected nonprofit organization.
  • Family, aftercare, followup. We ensure that the individual and family create a plan to keep and maintain a clean home. We also provide short-term phone support to see if the home is being maintained or additional help is needed. 

Whether we're working with family, the hoarder, therapists, a psychologist or other industry partners, we bring insight that will help the entire process go smoothly and successfully, with the customer always in control. We hope you find this information useful. ServiceMaster Dynamic Cleaning's hoarding services are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.  Contact us or call 800-865-5157.