x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Huge fire drill helps work out kinks at Dubai Healthcare City

Emergency services stage a mass fire drill in Dubai Healthcare City, evacuating a building of more than 600 people.

Paramedics attend to people acting as casualties during a mass fire drill at Dubai Healthcare City yesterday.
Paramedics attend to people acting as casualties during a mass fire drill at Dubai Healthcare City yesterday.

DUBAI // Emergency services staged a mass fire drill in Dubai Healthcare City yesterday, evacuating a building of more than 600 people. The Civil Defence, police and Dubai Healthcare City (DHCC) health and safety staff held the drill to test the services' ability to respond to disasters in the development. Smoke was also blown into the building. Ambulances, fire engines, police cars and a helicopter were brought in to create as realistic a scene as possible.

More than 20 people who played the role of fire causalities were placed on stretchers and attended to by paramedics outside the Ibn Sina building. Col Ahmad Al Sayegh, assistant general manager of Dubai Civil Defence, said the drill had been planned for a number of weeks and that it went relatively well. "It was huge," he said. "It is an ordinary training exercise creating co-operation between civil defence, Dubai Police and also the ambulances. They need to know how to work with each other."

He said the drill began when a member of staff in the building called 997 and 999. The aim was to measure response times and assess how well the area could be evacuated. "We blew smoke into the buildings and sent crew inside, searching all the building to find casualties and the injured. We need reality in these exercises. We need to make it as real as we can so people know how to deal with it better."

Many onlookers at DHCC, on Oud Metha Road near the Wafi centre, were unaware it was a drill. Huzaifa Kanorewla, 23, works in DHCC but said he did not know what was going on and assumed the heavy police presence meant there had been a real accident. "It looks so real," he said afterwards. "I saw the helicopter and people were running to get out of the way. I thought there had been a big accident." The number of emergency service staff who attended the drill was not confirmed but it was believed to be between 100 and 200.

A medic evaluator said the exercise was "uncoordinated" at times, especially the communication between the civil defence and the police. "Parts of the drill were quite chaotic," he said. "There was not one officer in charge at times so it looked like people did not always know what they were doing." Steve Smith, a member of DHCC's health and safety team, said the drill was of huge benefit in helping the emergency services familiarise themselves with DHCC and spot any potential problems.

He also said it tested DHCC's new major incident plan. Mr Smith said one of the key problem areas which was highlighted in the exercise was the control of people once they are outside an evacuated building. "One of the reasons why we do a drill is so we can exercise and see what goes wrong and what lessons can be leant. We can then put these lessons into our procedures. "We have worked long and hard on it and there has been several joint meetings between emergency services and ourselves to work out the scenarios."

Many of DHCC's facilities are still under construction. Original plans included 17 hospitals with a total of 780 beds available by the end of this year. One of the most recent openings was the City Hospital, the first multidisciplinary hospital to have royal suites and spa facilities besides the usual medical services. munderwood@thenational.ae