Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 19 February 2019

Fire safety is everyone’s responsibility

Landlords must ensure residences are safe, but we also have to look out for ourselves
We all have a responsibility to implement fire-safety measures. (Ravindranath K / The National)
We all have a responsibility to implement fire-safety measures. (Ravindranath K / The National)

The revelation that many older buildings in Abu Dhabi lack functioning fire-safety systems comes as both a shock and an important wake-up call. The National reported yesterday that 10 out of 20 old buildings either did not have essential equipment or it was not working. In several cases, residents said that this had been the case for many years.

The one-in-two figure is almost certainly not representative of the entire city, but it should be a great concern that, even in a small number of residential buildings, systems fitted to save lives have been allowed to deteriorate. Fire safety should begin with the installation of detectors, alarms, extinguishers and other equipment, and all of these must be routinely and rigorously maintained to ensure that they operate properly if and when they are needed.

Another cause for concern is the claim by some residents that the owners of their buildings are aware of the situation but unwilling to do anything about it. One said: “If we argue with the owner they would say, ‘OK, you can leave the place when you want’.” Landlords are clearly abrogating their responsibility if they fail to install and maintain fire-safety equipment. It is their duty of care to their tenants to ensure that the accommodation is habitable and safe. Appropriate action should be taken in proven cases of neglect.

At the same time, however, it is also each individual’s responsibility to look out for their own safety. This extends not only to fire-safety measures, including taking care with cigarette butts, gas cylinders and other potential sources of fire, but other wider safety responsibilities such as: putting bars or locks on windows so children don’t fall out, using safe pesticides rather than the poisons that have been responsible for many child deaths, and so.

When it comes to personal safety, we cannot afford to be complacent. We all need a plan to protect ourselves, our families and our neighbours in the event of emergency. We can’t simply leave it to others.

Updated: September 28, 2015 04:00 AM