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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 September 2018

Tough fines and enforcement needed in UAE buildings to boost fire safety

Education and awareness is key, experts say. 

Five major tower fires have broken out over the past six years, including two blazes at the Torch tower in Dubai Marina. Antonie Robertson / The National
Five major tower fires have broken out over the past six years, including two blazes at the Torch tower in Dubai Marina. Antonie Robertson / The National

From issuing fines to fire drills and inspections, some buildings are making occupants aware of fire safety but thorough and rigorous implementation is needed.

Inspection companies said that some developers who assessed buildings but found it impossible to remove combustible aluminium cladding had formulated rules to mitigate risk by tough implementation of bans on barbecues and shisha on balconies.

“Right now people don’t enforce the rules and security guards are not well trained. Either civil defence or the police have to be called and get involved. These people who break the rules must either be fined or arrested because they are jeopardising the life of people in their building. Enforcement of the rules is a huge education,” said Douglas Ralph, president of the Middle East Real Estate Inspection Association.

In some buildings in the Business Bay, Barsha Heights and JLT areas, residents have received notices reminding them that it is their responsibility to maintain a safe community and that smoking was prohibited in the lifts, corridors and enclosed parking spaces.

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“My neighbour was fined Dh200 because his friends came over and they did shisha a few months ago. We were actually relieved when we heard about this but he was very upset about the fine because he felt they were careful while using the shisha,” said Jess Karly, a Jumeirah Lakes Towers resident.

“When he posted that he was upset on the community group, he didn’t get much sympathy. People are definitely worried and know that a small spark can cause a fire.”

The Deyaar Owners’ Association Management, which handles buildings across the Emirates, said it was conducting fire drills across residential and commercial buildings along with Dubai Civil Defence, with plans for 327 inspections by a specialised team of fire risk engineers by the year’s end.

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This will include fire plans for each tower including periodic audits and monthly risk-focused inspections covering all building systems.

In nine mock drills so far, the teams ensured all occupants were evacuated and inspections focused on identifying loopholes in fire doors, stairwell pressurisation fans, fire alarm, firefighting systems, elevators, emergency lighting systems and with immediate action taken to close the gaps.

Tenants and owners are verbally informed of violation of safety rules, followed by a written notice with a fine imposed for repeat offences.

While fire inspections have been conducted since 2015, the frequency of inspections has increased following the updated Fire and Life Safety code issued earlier this year.

“Since our first drills, our on-site team have made significant improvements in clearly defining roles for on-site staff, assembly point coordination, notifying authorities and crowd management,” said Kanagaraj Gurusamy, of Deyaar Owners’ Association Management.

“The common safety error that most on-site teams make is to give one person too many responsibilities. Frequent false alarms in the building is another area of concern. Most residents fail to respond to alarms when they believe it could be a false alarm. Fixing this key gap will significantly improve the response time of the evacuees.”

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