x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Capital urged to plan for disaster

Developing airtight security and fire codes for new buildings would enhance both safety and national security, officials are told.

ABUY DHABI // Developing airtight security and fire codes for new buildings would enhance both safety and national security, officials were told yesterday. It was financially impossible to protect against every threat and officials should assume that, at some point, disaster could strike, said James Le Mesurier, the head of safety and security for Abu Dhabi Urban Planning Council. The key was to be prepared and be able to recover, he said.

Abu Dhabi, unlike older, more established cities such as London, New York or Paris, was in a great position to implement policies that would put it in that position, he said. "In Abu Dhabi, it is a brand new environment, so you really can take all the lessons learned from 9/11, from fires, natural disasters, and apply that to the design of the future city," Mr Le Mesurier told the World Class Protection and Security for Public and Strategic Buildings conference.

So-called "critical buildings", such as hotels and mosques, should be designed according to unique specifications and requirements to make them resilient to crises and disasters, and to secure them against potential and unanticipated risks, he said. "So, if there is a fire in the Metro station or a tall building, you can recover from it as quickly as possible, minimise the financial damage, minimise the reputational damage, minimise the loss of life and then get back to normal as fast as you can," he said.

Officials at the conference announced that, within six months, the Ministry of Interior would finish a code for new police buildings. It also was announced that the Department of Municipal Affairs (DMA) is developing a separate code for all other buildings that will draw on the international building and fire codes. It will be implemented by the Civil Defence as well as the DMA. Mr Le Mesurier said introducing this type of a system would give Abu Dhabi the chance to be one of the "safest cities in the world".

Dr Eman Asaad, an architectural engineer in the studies and development section of Abu Dhabi Police, said it was important to embrace crime prevention through environmental designs. It was part of architectural and urban planning to encourage people to look after what was around them, she added. Delegates to the conference called for the police to take a more active role in the security of buildings. Currently, safety standards are enforced by the municipality, whose law enforcement agency is not as strong.

hhassan@thenational.ae