ABU DHABI // The federal fire code requires that all buildings, existing and new, have smoke or heat detectors fitted in each room and hallway - but some buildings still do not comply.
The detectors, designed to alert residents to high temperatures or smoke in a given space, are usually installed in kitchens but are just as important in other rooms, fire safety experts say.
"People need to take the time to look where they live and where they work to see if these detectors are tested," said Norm Labbe, a health, safety and environment specialist at Good Harbour Consulting. "Do they even work? Have the batteries been checked recently?"
The federal Fire and Life Safety Code of Practice, released last year, says "detectors shall be provided in all rooms, halls, storage areas, basements, attics, lofts, spaces above suspended ceilings and other subdivisions and accessible spaces".
The regulations detail specifications for the location and spacing of detectors, depending on ceiling height and room contents.
Property owners are required to install the detectors and ensure they are working or face a fine from Civil Defence.
Barry Bell, managing director of Wagner Fire Safety Management Consultants in Dubai and a fire engineer with more than 30 years' experience, said the regulations were very clear and had been in place for more than 15 years.
"Nearly every type of building is required to have smoke detectors," he said.
But experts said some structures were built before current regulations were put into place.
"In new buildings, it is better, because the landlords know to put them in now, but old buildings, that's a different story," said Kamal Saleh, a trainer and health and safety consultant at the Emirates Institute for Health and Safety.
The institute works with government agencies to provide training to residents on home safety and spread the word about regularly checking smoke detectors. Mr Saleh said only about 60 per cent of the trainees even know what the detectors were.
"Awareness is definitely an issue," he said. "It has to be a priority for property owners to hire a maintenance company that also checks the fire-alert system regularly."
Enforcement is also crucial, and regular inspections would ensure detectors and other equipment - including fire extinguishers and alarms systems - are functioning properly.
"Education and prevention are important," Mr Labbe said. "We need people visiting homes, providing information, doing inspections and checking to see if everything works."