Fire services highlights dangers of hoarding

Fire service

Fire service

From Devon & Somerset Fire SErvice:

We all have a bit of rubbish in our houses we hoard for sentimental reasons. But sometimes, hoarding goes much, much further. Devon & Somerset Fire & Rescue Service Safeguarding Team try their best to support individuals with hoarding behaviours.

Hoarding and poor housekeeping have been identified as one of the seven risk factors that make someone more likely to die in a fire. High levels of combustible materials mean that a fire is more likely to spread, escape routes are severely compromised and piles of belongings can become unstable and present trip hazards.

The Safeguarding Team have been linking with partner organisations to look at ways in which individuals who display hoarding behaviours can be supported. By reducing the number of belongings and items on their property, people can create a safer and a more habitable environment.

The team have been working particularly successfully with Devon and Cornwall Housing who have identified tenants with hoarding behaviours. Working closely with Housing sustainment officers and de-cluttering organisations has proved successful with a number of interventions.

As the work progresses effective working arrangements with key partner organisations are developed that create the opportunity to explore new and innovate ways to engage with and support individuals who display this particularly complex behaviour. Associated difficulties such as depression and anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder can complicate matters and if an individual is not able to access their bathroom or use their kitchen, then self-neglect can begin to present.

Last week, the Safeguarding Team represented Devon & Somerset Fire & Rescue Service at Hoarding UK’s first national conference, ‘Improving Person Centred Outcomes’. They will also be working closely with Hoarding UK over the future months on an exciting 2-year plan. Hoarding UK is the only UK – wide charity solely dedicated to supporting people affected by hoarding behaviours.

Hoarding facts

Estimates suggest more than a million people in the UK may have hoarding issues and although this is an issue in itself it can also be indicative of other mental health issues. Hoarding presents additional fire risks to individuals affected by the disorder

•           Individuals may not be able to easily escape in the event of a fire incident

•           Fire spread and intensity can be accelerated by hoarded material

•           Materials can increase smoke development

•           Individuals may not want people to access their space which means repairs on property and utilities not reported and corrected

Hoarding poses a high risk to operational firefighters when attending the scene in the event of an incident.

•           There may be increased heat and flashover can occur earlier and at a lower temperature

•           Reduced visibility

•           Access and ingress within the property can be restricted to narrow channels

•           Imposed load from the possessions which will increase when water applied which can result in earlier structural instability

•           Entrapment of crews

•           Search patterns hampered and restricted by volume of possession

For more information please visit the website Hoarding .

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