x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Panic-button alarms linked to police installed in 27 embassies

Police say special units created to respond to embassy emergencies are in part a reaction to unrest in the region.

ABU DHABI // Panic-button alarm systems have been installed at 27 embassies in the past month.

The move is part of initiatives strengthening security at foreign embassies around the capital.

"We do not expect particular attacks because the UAE enjoys a peaceful environment, but terrorism is evolving and we need to be on track and cautious," said Brig Gen Faris al Faresi, the general director of guarding and special tasks at Abu Dhabi Police.

"We need to develop more effective methods than the typical forms of security."

The panic buttons are linked to the police operations room and, if they are pressed, specially trained patrols will head to that embassy.

The number of officers allotted to those forces is expected to increase as more alarm systems are set up across all 45 embassies.

Some embassies were hesitant to embrace the programme, said Brig Gen al Faresi. However, some ambassadors were now requesting it. The service will be free for the first year.

The Armenian ambassador's secretary, Ani Arslanian, said the alarm system was useful during off-duty hours, but complicated entry and exit for staff. "We're supposed to turn the system on when no one is in the embassy, because it is linked through live CCTV to the operations room so they can see if anything occurs when no one is there.

"So when we enter the embassy again we're supposed to immediately turn it off," she said. They had never faced any problems where they needed police to intervene, she added.

No reported emergency case has occurred in any of the emirate's diplomatic buildings so far.

If diplomatic parties asked for more security, they would be offered assistance through Abu Dhabi police's privatised company, Hemaya, Brig Gen al Faresi added.

hdajani@thenational.ae