Hoarding can create significant risks to the individual, the community and firefighters. We are supporting the national UK Hoarding Awareness Week which has been set up by the Chief Fire Officers' Association and will run from 17th to 21st May.
The aim of the week is to spread the simple message that understanding issues relating to hoarding, or individuals with a tendency to hoard, will make both the community and Firefighters safer.
Throughout the week, we will be publishing information which aims to promote awareness of the fire risks of hoarding together with advice on guidance on what to do if you have concerns about a family/friend who have a tendency to hoard.
What is hoarding disorder?
The NHS summarises the problem well: "A hoarding disorder is where someone acquires an excessive number of items and stores them in a chaotic manner. The items can be of little or no monetary value and usually result in unmanageable amounts of clutter."
Hoarding- Myths & Truths
People with hoarding issues are just dirty and lazy.
Usually just the opposite is true. But they have often undergone a traumatic experience or had a huge period of instability in their lives. They experience shame and fear which paralyses them and makes it very difficult to understand how they can return to the way they were before.
Incorrect intervention can often cause further trauma if they feel they have been perceived to be someone who they are not.
All people with hoarding issues have OCD.
OCD and Hoarding Disorder are distinct conditions which were once linked when studies first started.
There is nothing we can do about it.
With the proper support help and guidance hoarding problems can be resolved.
Fire safety suggestions
If you or someone you care for lives in a home that has become hoarded, you can help by:
- Encouraging them not light candles or tea lights of any kind. A safer option is to use LED flameless candles.
- Ensuring there is appropriate heating so that portable heaters, candles or gas hobs are not used to heat the home. If using portable heaters, ensuring that items aren't placed on top of, or too close to them.
- Suggest –or if you can, make sure – that they smoke outside if they are a smoker, never smoking in bed or where they could fall asleep, and that they use proper ashtrays.
- Contacting the Local Authority to discuss options for support to clear some of the clutter.
- Work with them to develop an escape plan.
- Book a home fire safety visit –a free service we offer to share advice and help.
For more information, advice and guidance on hoarding, visit: https://www.esfrs.org/your-safety/safer-homes/hoarding/
Getting extra help
If hoarding or clutter has become a problem, you can get help and advice from:
- Adult Social Care (East Sussex) – 0345 608 0191
- Access Point (Brighton & Hove) – 01273 295 5555