x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Fire alarm system in Dubai towers to be extended across UAE

System currently used in Dubai constantly checks fire alarms for faults and alerts experts when issues are detected.

A blaze at an apartment building on Airport Road, Abu Dhabi. The emirate is expected to follow Dubai in introducing a fire alarm monitoring system.
A blaze at an apartment building on Airport Road, Abu Dhabi. The emirate is expected to follow Dubai in introducing a fire alarm monitoring system.

A system that ensures fire alarms in Dubai's high-rise towers are working properly will soon be introduced across the UAE.

Maj Gen Rashid Al Matrooshi, director general of UAE Civil Defence, yesterday said the "24/7 control system", which monitored 40 per cent of the fire alarms in the emirate's towers, had proved successful.

Gen Al Matrooshi, who was speaking on the sidelines of the Fire Safety Technology Forum in Abu Dhabi, said the rest of the country would start to apply it "within the coming days or weeks".

"The speed of implementation will depend on the infrastructure of each individual emirate," he said, adding that he expected Abu Dhabi to follow quickly.

The system, which has been operating in Dubai for four years, continuously monitors alarms for defects. If any are found, a message is transmitted to the Dubai Civil Defence headquarters and a team is immediately sent to repair it.

Dubai Civil Defence plans to apply the 24/7 system to another 10 per cent of the emirate's high-rise buildings within the next five years. Smaller buildings and villas will be included in the next phase.

Gen Al Matrooshi said he been instructed by the Ministry of Interior to "unify the firefighting systems between all the emirates".

"It has been decided that Dubai has the best-practice in handling fire incidents, which will now be applied in all of the UAE," he said.

Sharjah Civil Defence, which has dealt with a spate of high-rise blazes in recent months, will be the first to apply the standards, Gen Al Matrooshi said.

Those will include an upgrade to procedures of monitoring buildings and the Fire and Life Safety Code.

"Within a couple of months you will see big improvements in Sharjah," Gen Al Matrooshi said.

Maj Ali Al Mutawa, the operations director at Dubai Civil Defence, said the problem in Sharjah was that building materials were too old and dangerous.

"We all should learn from our manufacture and building-design mistakes so we can avoid this stuff in the future," Al Mutawa said.

He said fighting fires in Dubai towers were "not a big challenge, as we are well-prepared".

"We are adopting the highest technologies and regulations to have the safest buildings in the world. That's why high-rises in Dubai are a benchmark for everyone else."

But Fred McKay, the district chief of the Toronto Fire Services department, said human behaviour was the "Achilles heel" when it came to fighting fires in tall buildings.

The problem was that people do not react to sirens as they think it is a false alarm, said Mr McKay, who also spoke at the forum.

"As soon as the alarm goes off, leave immediately," he said. "Don't wait, because when you finally realise there is actually a fire the window of opportunity for evacuation has come and gone."

Mr McKay said those in residential buildings had a higher chance of survival if they stayed in their flats during a fire, as apartment buildings are like "giant honeycombs" with each flat its own safe haven.

"It's when people come out of the safety of their apartments and go into corridors and stairwells that are filling up with smoke that we find their bodies," he said.

Gen Al Matrooshi said some of the challenges facing Civil Defence were cultural differences and language barriers.

Last year the Civil Defence held two awareness campaigns across the UAE to teach residents and businesses how to detect fire hazards and comply with safety regulations.

molson@thenational.ae