x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

National law on UAE fire-safety breaches to come into force

The new laws will include a broad-sweeping set of penalties for fire hazards in homes, and in commercial and industrial buildings.

Firefighters battle a blaze in the Sharjah Industrial Area earlier this month.
Firefighters battle a blaze in the Sharjah Industrial Area earlier this month.

SHARJAH // A united assault on fire-safety offences will begin next month when uniform laws for enforcement and penalties, announced yesterday, come into force across the nation.

The new laws will include a broad-sweeping set of penalties for fire hazards in homes, and in commercial and industrial buildings.

The Ministry of Interior announced yesterday that the system will be adopted by Civil Defence in all seven emirates from October 1.

Lt Gen Seif Abdullah Al Shafar, the under secretary of the ministry, said on a visit to Sharjah Civil Defence yesterday that officials throughout the Emirates had already been notified of the changes.

"Fire-safety violation fines range from Dh1,000 to Dh50,000 depending on the severity of the violation," Gen Al Shafar said.

"The aim of making these fines uniform is to standardise fire-safety procedures throughout the country in industrial, commercial and residential areas."

The action is in response to a spate of devastating residential tower and warehouse fires in recent years, particularly in Sharjah.

It comes as a new version of the UAE's Fire and Safety Life Code, which is constantly being upgraded, is expected next year.

And new regulations on building materials for facades will also be introduced this year, said Barry Bell, managing director of Wagner Fire Safety Management Consultants in Dubai and Sharjah.

"The design of facade systems on high-rise buildings are the particular focus of the new regulations, especially after some recent large fires in high-rises," Mr Bell said.

Sharjah's Al Tayer Tower, which was gutted by fire on April 28 this year leaving more than 100 families homeless, was clad in combustible aluminium composite panels.

The tiles are dangerous because the thin layers of aluminium can melt, exposing the flammable plastic core. Fires that would otherwise be contained can then spread rapidly along the exterior of the structure.

The 40-storey Al Tayer Tower was built in 2009, before the Fire and Life Safety Code banned the use of such tiles.

Experts investigating the blaze feared that hundreds of buildings across the country may be at risk because the could be clad with the same dangerous panels.

Brig Abdullah Saeed Al Suwaidi, the director general of Sharjah Civil Defence, said the rules announced yesterday would help to raise awareness of ongoing fire safety campaigns among residents, particularly in Sharjah.

Brig Al Suwaidi said crews from Sharjah Civil Defence handled a total of 5,276 emergency calls last year.

A new online system linking homes and businesses in Sharjah to a central fire alarm system was also announced by Civil Defence chiefs yesterday.

The system, which will allow residents and business owners to pay for a fire-safety compliance certificate, will boost customer service and let safety inspectors review facilities before issuing trade licences.

It is expected to come online at the start of next month.

And the Ministry of Interior is also expected to announce a new national campaign promoting fire safety for companies in industrial areas on Monday.

ykakande@thenational.ae

jthomas@thenational.ae