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Many fire departments experience serious fires, bad injuries and sometimes even death from compulsive hoarding. Excessive amounts of items accumulated in a home could pose a danger for not only homeowners but also firefighters who are fighting fires and responding to other types of emergencies. 

What is Hoarding?

Hoarding is defined as collecting or keeping large amounts of various items in the home due to strong urges to save them or distress experienced when discarding them. Many rooms in the home are so filled with possessions that residents can no longer use the rooms as designed. The home is so overloaded with things that everyday living is compromised.

Why do People Become Hoarders?

Hoarding is a mental disorder that can be genetic in nature, triggered by traumatic events, or a symptom of another disorder, such as depression, obsessive compulsive disorder, or dementia. Studies have found that hoarding usually begins in early adolescence and gets worse as a person ages. It is more common among older adults.

Why us Hoarding an Issue for the Fire Service?

  • Hoarding can be a fire hazard. Many occupants die in fires in these homes. Often, blocked exits prevent escape from the home. In addition, many people who are hoarding are injured when they trip over things or when materials fall on them.


  • Responding firefighters can be put at risk due to obstructed exits, falling objects, and excessive fire loading that can lead to collapse. Hoarding makes fighting fires and searching for occupants far more difficult.


  • Those living adjacent to an occupied structure can be quickly affected when a fire occurs, due to excessive smoke and fire conditions.

Hoarding and Fire Risk

Hoarding can pose a huge danger for homeowners and for first responders in time of an emergency. The downloadable sheet below has information on hoarding and tips to prevent injury. Download is provided by the NFPA.

Hoarding Impact on the Fire Service

Fire departments have become aware of hoarding situations and their risk of injury and death. The following download is information regarding hoarding and the fire service and how it effects men and women in the service. The download has been provided by the NFPA.


Special Groups at Risk

Everyone is at risk for injury from fire. It's essential to take the steps to stay safe, but those necessary steps may have complications for different groups of individuals. 

Older Adults

It is particularly important to know what to do incase of aa fire or an emergency for older adults. At  the age of 65 or older, people are twice as likely to be killed or injured in a fire compared to the population as a whole.

Safety Tips

Keep it low                                                                                 

  • If you don't live in an apartment building, consider sleeping in a room on the ground floor in order to make emergency escape easier. Make sure that smoke alarms are installed in every sleeping room and outside any sleeping areas. Have a telephone installed where you sleep in case of emergency. When looking for an apartment or high-rise home, look for one with an automatic sprinkler system. Sprinklers can extinguish a home fire in less time that it takes for the fire department to arrive.


Sound the alarm                                                                                 

  • The majority of fatal fires occur when people are sleeping, and because smoke can put you into a deeper sleep rather than waking you, its important to have a mechanical early warning of a fire to ensure that you wake up. If anyone in your household is deaf or if your own hearing is diminished, consider installing a smoke alarm that uses a flashing light or vibration to alert you to a fire emergency. View a list of product manufacturers.                    

Do the drill                                                                                 

  • Conduct your own, or participate in, regular fire drills to make sure you know what to do in the event of a home fire. If you or someone you live with cannot escape alone, designate a member of the household to assist, and decide on backups in case the designee isn't home. Fire drills are also a good opportunity to make sure that everyone is able to hear and respond to smoke alarms.

Open up                                                                                 

  • Make sure that you are able to open all doors and windows in your home. Locks and pins should open easily from inside. (Some apartment and high-rise buildings have windows designed not to open.) If you have security bars on doors or windows, they should have emergency release devices inside so that they can be opened easily. These devices won't compromise your safety, but they will enable you to open the window from inside in the event of a fire. Check to be sure that windows haven't been sealed shut with paint or nailed shut; if they have, arrange for someone to break the seals all around your home or remove the nails.

Stay connected                                                                                 

  • Keep a telephone nearby, along with emergency phone numbers so that you can communicate with emergency personnel if you're trapped in your room by fire or smoke.

People with Disabilities

The identity of the group of Americans with disabilities is constantly changing  and at any moment, we ourselves could become part of this group, for maybe a short time or maybe a long period of time.  It is important to know of different adaptations to safety measures that are able to be made to groups of people with special needs, Below you will find some safety tips to do so.

Home Safety for People with Disabilities

A home should be safe from fire for everyone living there. Some homes must have special accommodations for people with disabilities. A downloadable tips sheet to help with home safety for all, provided by the NFPA, can be found here.

Smoke Alarms for the Hearing Impaired

Smoke alarms help save lives, but people who are deaf or hearing impaired may not be able to properly use traditional smoke alarms. This tip sheet for smoke detectors for the hearing impaired is provided by the NFPA.

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