Twenty-five high-tech firefighting vehicles have been added to an arsenal of equipment to fight fires.
Dh25m a year to cut fire deaths
ABU DHABI // Civil-defence chiefs took delivery of a fleet of new firefighting vehicles yesterday in a Dh25 million-a-year campaign to cut response times and reduce fire deaths and injuries.
The fleet includes 25 front-line and mobile fire engines with the latest technology, and new specially adapted off-road vehicles to fight desert fires.
A study has also been commissioned to analyse types and patterns of fire incidents, and produce a nationwide plan for prevention and response.
Civil Defence has bought 45 new vehicles in the past two years, and spent Dh45m on new high-tech firefighting tools and equipment. An allocation of Dh25m has been set aside for this and subsequent years.
The target is a zero-response time for fires nationwide, as opposed to the current five to seven minutes, which will be met when householders themselves know how to start extinguishing a fire, said Maj Gen Rashid Al Matroushi, acting director of Civil Defence.
Last year firefighters began visiting residents at home, teaching them basic fire-safety techniques and pointing out existing problems. There will be a similar campaign in the near future for commercial warehouses.
From next week firefighters will also be training Bedouin at Al Aweer camp, teaching them how to put out fires and basic fire safety procedures.
More than 4,000 fires were reported nationwide last year, in which 95 people died and 1,817 were injured. There were 3,274 building fires, down by more than a third compared with 2010. Casualties from building fires dropped to 33 from 174.
There were 400 fires in Abu Dhabi last year, of which 80 per cent were smoke only. Dubai recorded a 65 per cent drop in the number of fires over the previous year. The target is to reduce the number of incidents by 15 per cent each year. Most fires last year occurred in homes and cars.
Despite the risk to their lives and their health, young people continue to volunteer to be firefighters, Gen Al Matroushi said yesterday. In Dubai alone, more than 15,000 Emiratis are on a waiting list to join Civil Defence, he revealed.
The officer said it required a strong heart to become a firefighter, and it was not a job for everyone. Twenty per cent of those who apply fail to make the grade.
For those who do, Civil Defence aims to make the job as safe as possible. They are distributing devices that can test the carbon monoxide level in a firefighter's body after a fire.
"If the level is high for a certain firefighter then for the next mission we wouldn't let him go inside the fire but monitor the vehicle instead," Gen Al Matroushi said.
Those affected will also be given specific exercises and treatment to reduce the level of carbon monoxide.
Following the success of a mobile firefighting restaurant/lounge introduced in Dubai two years ago, additional facilities will become available across the country.
The lounge vehicle includes comfortable chairs and a place where a firefighter can hang his jacket, find refreshments and use a "five-star" bathroom with a toilet and shower.
Previously, when responding to desert fires, Civil Defence used standard 4x4 or 4x6 vehicles, but since tourist activity has flourished in the past few years, special off-road vehicles will be added to the fleet. They will be similar to those used by the Army.
"So far we have ordered two," Gen Al Matroushi said, "and we will be adding more soon."
Other new vehicles that arrived yesterday are similar to those already in use but with more advanced technology.
"For instance, there is an alarm in some vehicles to determine when water is about to run off … and different coloured tubes of water and foam so it will be easier for the person running the vehicle to close the one that is not needed," Gen Al Matroushi said.
* With additional reporting by Wafa Issa in Dubai