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Hoarding is highly prevalent (approximately 2-5% of the population, potentially over 1.2 million people in the UK alone).

Like most human behaviours, saving and collecting possessions can range from being totally normal to excessive or pathological. Most children have collections at some point and approximately 30% of British adults define themselves as collectors.

Hoarding and Compulsive Hoarding are some of the more commonly used terms to refer to an excessive and problematic form of ‘collectionism’.

In May 2013 Hoarding Disorder was officially recognised. The NHS has published a page on Hoarding, click here for more details.

Your GP is your first point of contact. Take a trusted friend with you to help explain the situation, you could even take photographs or ask for a home visit.

Helping hoarders reduce the risk of fire – top tips

If you store large amounts of possessions in and around your home, you can help keep yourself safe from fire by following the advice below. Our ‘top tips’ are small, simple steps that can easily be included in your regular weekly/daily clearance sessions.

  • Make sure you have a working smoke alarm and test it as part of your regular clearance sessions. You can contact your local fire service for advice.
  • Make it a priority to keep the cooking area clear.
  • Do not place items on or close to heaters, lamps or other electrical equipment.
  • Do not store cylinders in your home as they are a serious hazard during a fire.
  • Put ashtrays on flat, stable surfaces so that they can’t tip over easily. Don’t leave lit cigarettes unattended.
  • Put candles/tea lights in heat resistant holders that hold the candle/tea light firmly and ensure it is placed on a flat, stable, heat resistant surface.
  • Keep candles/tea lights away from anything that can catch fire, and never leave them unattended.
  • Plan and practise how to escape from your home if there were a fire. Choose an escape route and keep it clear.
  • Ensure possessions are stored on stable surfaces and do not stack items to a height that they become unstable.
  • Newspapers and mail stored in bulk are highly combustible and will cause a fire to spread rapidly.
  • In the event of a fire, do not attempt to put it out yourself – leave your home straight away and call the fire brigade once you are safely outside. Do not stop on your way out to collect possessions and do not go back inside once you have escaped.
  • If you feel that you need some help or assistance with the above, there are many organisations that will support you through the process free of charge.

To help individuals find a qualified counsellor or psychotherapist in their local area, Counselling Directory provides a confidential service that encourages those in distress to seek help. The directory contains information on many different types of distress, as well as articles, news, and events. Click here to visit this website.

HFRS Position Statement - Hoarding

Humberside Fire and Rescue Service is committed to working with local Safeguarding Adults Boards and partner agencies where there is an increased risk to responding firefighters posed by hoarding.

In the event of a fire, having a large amount of highly combustible items can cause a fire to spread faster and show a dramatic increase in temperature. Exit routes may become blocked and prevent occupants from escaping in an emergency. Firefighters entering the premises may be at risk of items falling on them or finding the way out impeded.

Compulsive hoarding is a debilitating psychological condition. It is a complex issue, needing the involvement of many to manage and may never be fully resolved.

Humberside Fire and Rescue Service are committed to making the local community safer utilising the skills, knowledge, information and experience of its employees and relevant partner organisations.

Humberside Fire and Rescue will:

• Work within effective local partnerships to try and reduce the risk of fire in hoarded properties.

• Follow the Humberside Hoarding Protocol

• Use the Clutter Image Rating index scale number to assess risk

• Record data to reduce the danger to the community and protect firefighters from the hazards caused by hoarding and self-neglect

• Refer adults at risk to partner agencies where there is need, consent and it is appropriate to do so

• Ensure that information regarding adults at risk is proactively shared appropriately across relevant organisations

• Create and utilise a range of different media to educate the adult at risk about fire safety in the home

• Offer a variety of practical solutions and equipment, where necessary, for those most at risk of fire