Hoarding disorder.

Sometimes people like to collect and hoard things in their home, leading to an increased risk of fire. 

What is it?

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 disorder video

Fire safety and hoarding disorder

Understanding and reducing the risks

How can you reduce fire risks for hoarders?

Because of the amount of possessions,  exit routes can become blocked, making safe evacuation more difficult. Fires can also spread much faster, especially where there are flammable items such as newspapers or cardboard.

Understand the risks

Hoarded materials can easily catch alight if they come into contact with heat sources such as overloaded extension leads, the kitchen hob or naked flames like candles or cigarettes. Because of the amount of possessions, fires will also spread much faster.

Fire safety suggestions

If you care for someone who lives in home that has become hoarded, you can help them live more safely by:

  1. Encouraging them not light candles or tea lights of any kind. A safer option is to use LED flameless candles.
  2. Ensuring they have appropriate heating so that they are not using portable heaters, candles or gas hobs to heat the home. If using portable heaters, ensuring that items aren't placed on top of, or too close to them.
  3. 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.
  4. Contacting the Local Authority to discuss options for support to clear some of the clutter.
  5. Work with them to develop an escape plan.
  6. Book a home fire safety visit – a free service we offer to share advice and help. 

Getting extra help

Want more advice? 

There is a separate page for healthcare equipment including oxygen therapy, dynamic airflow pressure relieving mattresses and incontinence products. There's information about emollient creams here, and specialist advice to support smokers here.

Book a free home fire safety visit

We can also provide more specialist advice based on the person you care for's home and individual needs during a home fire safety visit. 

They can be arranged 24/7, and we even fit free smoke alarms if the person you care for needs them. Specialist alarms can also be fitted – for example, strobe light and vibrating pad alarms for those who are deaf or hard of hearing.

Person using the Home Fire Safety Checker on their smartphone.

Worried about someone you care for?

We have a simple tool that can guide you around the home helping you spot fire risks, or we can carry out a visit ourselves.

Find out which option is best for you and the person you care for

Extra information for support workers and social workers

If you are a support worker providing care there are some additional steps you must take:

  1. Complete the Person Centred Risk Assessment at the bottom of this page – this will help you identify areas of risk to the person you care for.
  2. You can also use the Clutter Image Rating system download if you want to talk with the person you care for about the clutter in their home.
  3. Report the risks to your line manager and ask them to discuss a referral for a free home fire safety visit with the client.
  4. Make sure that fire risk is included in the care plan for your client including things like using fire retardant bedding, and how to care for people who smoke.
  5. Communicate with the person’s family or other supporting agencies to consider how Telecare can help to keep vulnerable people safer.
  6. Please consider their needs and make sure they know and understand the escape plan for where they live

It's also a good idea to get some training on how to recognise fire risks. This will help you to spot signs that may indicate the person you care for is at risk of injury from fire and what steps you can take to reduce those risks. A good start is the free online course available here.

e-Learning with TEC Services Association

Useful downloads

Person Centre Fire Risk Assessment

Download PDF (60kb)

Fire safety short guide

Download PDF (2,410kb)

Help to identify hoarding disorder – clutter scale rating leaflet

Download PDF (848kb)

Advice for people with hoarding behaviour

Download PDF (1,043kb)