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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 18 November 2018

Community needs to be trained for better fight fire incidents in the country

More fire stations and better training for security guards in building safety are two of the new measures designed to cut fire deaths in the UAE by 15 per cent in the next four years.

ABU DHABI // More fire stations and better training for security guards in building safety are two of the new measures designed to cut fire deaths in the UAE by 15 per cent in the next four years.

Civil defence commanders on Monday also announced plans to cut the number of fires by 10 per cent.

Officials said the average response time has fallen to 7 minutes and that more stations will open to further reduce that.

They also said building employees and residents can do more to help reach these goals.

Major General Jasim Mohammed Al Marzouqi, Commander General of Civil Defence at the Ministry of Interior, said in many cases residents have 90 seconds to get out of a burning building before the risk of casualty rises significantly.

“This is the most critical time in every fire,” he said at the International Civil Defence Day conference in Abu Dhabi on Monday.

“We are faster than the international standard response time to a fire, which is 8 minutes. We have already achieved 7.1 minutes.

“Unfortunately, the civil defence can’t reach there during that very short time [90 seconds].

“So, we aim to further reduce fire response times by opening more fire service stations and training more residents of buildings, the community and security guards, who are the first to respond to fires.”

Typical training and advice includes how to alert occupants to a fire, going from door-to-door and checking handles for heat before carefully entering a flat.

Security officers are advised to ensure they do not break glass in buildings that could allow smoke to escape into public areas.

“We’ve had instances where security guards responded very well and saved lives,” Maj Gen Al Marzouqi said.

“The idea is not how you respond to the incident, but the idea is how well you train the people who are first responders to the scene.”

Maj Gen Al Marzouqi said the ministry has set targets for each emirate to ensure all are up to standard.

UAE law states that all building owners must train a number of occupants depending on the size and height of the building.

In a low-rise building of less than 15 metres in height, 10 per cent should be given fire training.

In a high-rise of 23 metres or more, that should rise to 30 per cent of occupants.

The fire safety conference also heard from Christopher Tan Eng Kiong, senior assistant commissioner at Singapore Civil Defence.

“Technology keeps evolving but that still can’t solve the problem of firefighting until we invest in human resources and the community – and professionally train them,” he said.

“Homeowners, industry workers, schoolteachers, medical professionals and everyone in the society needs to be trained.”

In addition to improving the response time to fires, experts said much more could be done by homeowners and residents.

Dubai Civil Defence has estimated that 70 per cent of fires are caused by either electrical short circuits or goods stacked up on balconies.

There are 20 fire safety regulations being introduced, including the need to install fire alarms in private villas.

Salem Al Qassimi, director of product conformity at the Abu Dhabi Quality and Conformity Council, said: “We are working with civil defence on three things – enhancing quality standards of products in Abu Dhabi to take those to the higher level, conformity schemes that focus on fire safety and certification for installing fire prevention products.”

anwar@thenational.ae