Hoarding presents significant risks, especially in case of a fire.
Having a large amount of highly combustible items can cause a fire to spread faster and lead to a rapid increase in temperature. Additionally, hoarded possessions can obstruct exit routes, making it challenging for occupants to quickly escape during an emergency. Firefighters entering the premises may be at risk of items falling on them or blocking their way out of the property.
Hoarding disorders are challenging to treat because many people who hoard frequently do not see it as a problem, or have little awareness of how it's affecting their life or the lives of others.
Some may realise they have a problem but are reluctant to seek help because they feel extremely ashamed, humiliated or guilty about it.
It's really important to encourage a person who is hoarding to seek help, as their difficulties discarding objects can not only cause loneliness and mental health problems but also pose a health and safety risk.
If you or someone you know is dealing with hoarding, your first step should be to contact your GP, further information and support can be found on the NHS website.
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 these simple steps:
- Make sure you have a working smoke alarm on every floor and test it regularly.
- 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. Do not stop to collect possessions and do not go back inside once you have escaped.
- Get Out - Stay Out - Call 999.
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 using 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