The NHS describes hoarding as a disorder where somebody acquires an excessive number of items and stores them in a chaotic manner. Said items can have little or no monetary value and result in unmanageable levels of clutter.
What’s this got to do with us? Well, hoarding can significantly increase your chances of having a fire and, unfortunately, getting seriously hurt in a fire.
Not only can hoarding make it much harder to escape a fire, with fire exits being blocked by large amounts of clutter, but it can also increase the speed at which fire spreads. This is because the clutter can increase the ‘fire loading’ in a house – where large amounts of flammable items (such as books, newspapers) make it easier for the fire to spread across a property.
Fire risks associated with hoarding
- Fire can spread quicker
- Smoke can develop and fill a house much quicker
- Escape routes can be blocked – making it harder to get out
- Hoarded materials that are flammable increase the risk of a fire starting
- It’s much harder for our firefighters to search a property and find people inside
Advice for hoarders
- Make sure you have working smoke alarms and test them regularly
- If you smoke, please do so outside and never in bed – use proper ashtrays too
- Don’t place flammable items – such as clothes or newspapers – on heaters, lamps or other electrical equipment
- Keep your cooking area clean and free from clutter – especially your hob
- Keep your escape routes free and plan how you would get out in the event of a fire
- Be extra careful with candles and, preferably, use LED tealights instead
- Should you have a fire, get out immediately and call 999
Advice for carers
If you know or care for someone who hoards, you can help them live more safely by:
- Make sure they have working smoke alarms and test them regularly
- Encouraging them not to use candles and instead opt for LED tealight versions
- Ensure they have clear escape routes and a plan in place in case of emergency
- Ensure they smoke outside, use proper ashtrays and never smoke in bed
- Speak to them about using heaters safely and keeping them free of flammable items
- Speak to their local authority to see what support might be available
- Book them a SYFR home safety check
You can find out more about hoarding on Hoarding UK’s website.
The NHS also provides information about hoarding as a mental health disorder on their website.