Dangers of Hoarding to EMS

 It is no secret that todays fire services call volume is made up of nearly 80 percent Emergency Medical Runs.

Bowers Ambo

Bowers Fire Company Ems Unit

This number increases the chance of encountering a Hoarding condition 80 percent more than on a fire call.  Funny thing about this is there can be more danger in entering a hoarded condition in an EMS run than in a fire.

If you were to enter a building that is on fire, would you be wearing respiratory protection, how about attacking a fire with no thermal protection?  Then should we be going into these conditions unprotected. NO.

Every hour around the world the tones are sounding for us to respond to a medical emergency and often-in today’s world the house we enter will have hoarding conditions present.  Hoarding is often thought of as a fire danger, while this is true, it also offers many health risks to the unprotected responder.

From biohazards, fall hazards, and patient access issues EMS crews worldwide are confronting hoarding.  One of the biggest dangers is the risks of respiratory exposure.  Many hoarded homes are filled with aerosolized mold, raised ammonia levels, and dust particles that can be breathed in if you do not protect your respiratory system.  Entering these conditions may need a SCBA.  At


minimum, you should wear a N95 mask to reduce the exposure to these possibilities.

Patient access issue are too many to mention in this quick blog. From blocked means of entry to narrowed pathways off access to the patient challenges faced with running these calls can be varied.  Hoarding is classified into five levels each providing its own challenges.  A level one will need less intervention than a level 5 but each will challenge you. The most important recommendation is to call for help.  IF you arrive and use your size up cues and clues and identify a hoarding conditions get lots of help coming.  Clearing the pathways for patient removal is going to be back breaking labor and the more folks to help the better.  One good way of making sure you have the resources available is to have known hoarding conditions preplanned or flagged.  This is made possible if you knew the conditions are present before the call is dispatched.  Establishing a reporting system to your entire department is the best way to protect and send the adequate resources.

Stay tuned as we offer more tips to make your next ems run safer from the jumpseat!