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Crowds hampering emergency crews

The public must allow emergency services personnel to perform their work and not crowd around fire and accident sites, one of the emirate's senior police officers said.

ABU DHABI // The public must allow emergency services personnel to perform their work and not crowd around fire and accident sites, one of the emirate's senior police officers said yesterday. Col Othman al Tamami, the manager of the emergency and public safety division at Abu Dhabi Police, said the habit of people gathering at incidents was hampering the authorities and was acting as "a very disruptive curiosity".

In a statement, Col al Tamami said: "The crowding of curious onlookers and their cars hinders the emergency crews' vehicles from reaching the site of emergency and slows them down. "Sometimes we are forced to move the parked cars with our hands in order to reach the site as they are in the way." Col al Tamami also issued a statement about a series of safety measures that will be introduced, aiming to reduce the likelihood of fires.

Last month, the Department of Municipal Affairs said the capital's International Fire Code based on the International Code Council standards in the United States was expected to become law in the first half of 2010. "The code will be implemented as soon as possible as a major preventive step in battling fires," Col al Tamami said. "This fire safety code is the first of its kind in the Middle East," he said. "The safety standard will include all aspects of the building, from what will be used in their construction and their maintenance, to how to handle fires in residential and industrial areas, to effective preventive measures in all buildings, including the skyscrapers and tall towers."

Some of the hazards that will be addressed are lack of proper insulation on electrical wiring and stairwells and staircases cluttered with debris. The fire codes will require the installation of alarms, smoke detectors, emergency exits and sprinklers, as well as having regular mandatory maintenance of the safety measures that are in place. The upgrading of fire safety standards has been planned for some time but was announced following a series of major fires, the most recent occurring last month in an eight-storey apartment block in the Tourist Club area. Two people died and 32 were injured, suffering from smoke inhalation and broken bones caused as they jumped from windows to escape the blaze.

rghazal@thenational.ae

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