ABU DHABI // All Government schools in the capital will be inspected for safety and to determine how well they can respond to emergencies, it was announced yesterday.
The general directorate of Civil Defence and the Abu Dhabi Education Council (Adec) are preparing a safety and evacuation framework for schools and universities in the emirate.
They will conduct annual checks and drills to ensure safety equipment is in order, and to confirm that teachers and pupils are trained to take necessary action during a crisis.
New state schools in the capital have been built according to safety codes prescribed by the Civil Defence, but some older campuses still need to be brought up to standards, authorities said yesterday.
"Our new schools are well equipped and prepared and so are the refurbished schools," said Salem Al Sayari, the executive director of support services at Adec. "But our old schools are still missing those safety measures."
About 10 per cent of Adec schools do not have appropriate assembly points and exits, and lack signboards and fire equipment.
Some of the schools do not have proper electrical systems.
All of these issues will be addressed during regular visits by authorities.
Lt Humaid Al Ali, the head of the civil protection section at the Civil Defence, said the number of visits would depend on the size of the school and the issues that are found.
"It could be every six months or after a year but we will develop a schedule and inform them about it," Mr Al Ali said. "We will be inspecting them to see if all the equipment is operational and train them in what needs to be done. We will establish a framework which they will be expected to follow in all situations."
He said private schools were inspected as a requirement for their licences, but government schools were not.
"They need to be constructed to our codes and have to maintain them to renew their licence," he said. "But with government schools there is no renewal process and no standard regulations in safety so far."
Khalid Mohammed Al Ansari, the school service manager at Adec, said most of the schools were built in the 1990s, and the older campuses may still have old equipment.
"Civil Defence keep upgrading their standard requirement and our schools have to as well," he said. "Some of our old schools do not have the right electrical systems. They do not have proper exit doors and a fire alarm system and that will be looked into."
He said that some schools had devised evacuation plans. "Not all schools have one and the ones that do have proactively prepared one by themselves."
He added that all schools would be given a standardised evacuation procedure.
Col Mohamed Abdullah Al Nuaimi, the acting director general of Civil Defence, said the authority would train teachers and pupils on how to behave in an emergency.
"The eight minutes before we get to the site of the accident are so crucial and people must know the action plan to minimise the damage," he said.
Teachers and pupils will attend two workshops every year on how to use the fire equipment, and all schools will have an evacuation plan with all assembly points and exits charted out.
Schools will also have to develop a response team that will take charge during an incident.
The authority has already started inspecting government schools.
Mubarak Bin Mohammed School received a visit from inspectors this week, said Samira Al Nuaimi, the vice principal.
"We had marshals look at our equipment and ask our staff some questions," she said. "They are taking our feedback on what we do and do not know to provide the right programmes."
Jasem Ahmed Al Neaimi, a parent of a Grade 11 pupil at Al Mawaheb Model School, said he was relieved the matter was being tackled.
"Fire drills and lessons in response happen from time to time in all organisations, and this is even more important in schools," he said. "If a fire occurs then pupils and teachers need to know how to use a fire extinguisher, who to call and where to assemble. There is little awareness about this at the moment."