West Sussex firefighters highlight this week (May 19th to 25th) the dangers of hoarding in support of a new national campaign.
The Chief Fire Officers Association (CFOA) launched national Hoarding Awareness Week to raise awareness of the issue and help keep both the community and firefighters safer.
A property filled with an excess of combustible materials such as old newspapers, mail and clothing increases the risk of a fire occurring and spreading quickly.
Hoarding makes escaping from fire more difficult because escape routes like hallways, windows and doors become blocked. Accessing the property, fighting the fire and locating occupants also become more difficult and dangerous for emergency responders.
Assistant Chief Fire Officer for West Sussex, Gavin Watts, said: “Fire safety is something every householder needs to take seriously, but because the risk of a fire starting increases and opportunities to escape decreases it is even more important for those people whose homes are overloaded with possessions.”
“Hoarding is an issue that as a nation we are just only beginning to understand, we know it isn’t as straightforward as simply advising people to de-clutter. However, this week gives us a good opportunity to increase awareness of the dangers from fire and try and offer people some simple advice on how they can reduce the risk for themselves, their loved ones and our fire crews.”
“For anyone who is worried about fire safety in their own home or in the home of someone they care for, don’t forget we offer a free home fire safety check for those most at risk. People can call free on 0800 328 6487 or visit our website at www.westsussex.gov.uk/fire to find out if they are eligible.”
Advice on reducing fire risk in homes with an excess of possessions:
. Ensure there is a smoke detector installed on each level of your home and carry out a weekly test to ensure they work
. Most fires start in the kitchen so keep your cooker and cooking area clear
. Newspapers and mail stored in bulk are highly combustible – try and sort these on the day they arrive and recycle regularly
. Don’t place items on or close to heaters, lamps or other electrical equipment
. If you smoke, put ashtrays on a flat, stable surface so they can’t tip over easily. Empty ashtrays regularly and ensure cigarettes are extinguished properly
. Plan and practice how to escape from your home if there was a fire. Choose an escape route and keep it clear
. Make sure candles and tea lights are kept in heat resistant holders, placed on a flat heat resistant surface and kept well away from anything that could catch light. Only leave candles or tea lights burning when you are in the room
. In the event of a fire, don’t attempt to tackle it yourself or stop to gather any possessions. Get out, stay out and call 999