x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Safety experts busy after tower blaze

Cigarettes, overloaded sockets and candles are the most common causes of fire in the home. Consultants warn of rubbish in stairways and on balconies, discarded cigarettes and unattended candles after Tamweel Tower blaze

Barry Bell, managing director of Wagner Fire Safety Management Consultants warns that electrical devices should not having multiple plug sockets fully loaded as well as candles left unattended and smoking at home can easily cause fires.
Barry Bell, managing director of Wagner Fire Safety Management Consultants warns that electrical devices should not having multiple plug sockets fully loaded as well as candles left unattended and smoking at home can easily cause fires.

DUBAI // Fire-safety experts have been inundated with calls from the public, businesses and landlords after last weekend's blaze at Tamweel Tower.

Patrick Carey, managing director of the fire-safety consultancy Locke Carey, said there was always a major rise in the number of calls after such a high-profile incident.

"Because of the fire recently, a lot of landlords have asked us to come and audit their buildings," said Mr Carey, a former senior officer in the London fire brigade.

"In addition to the audit we meet with tenants and go through the simple precautions. It's quite heartening to see landlords coming to us."

Tamweel Tower in Jumeirah Lakes Towers caught alight early last Sunday, leaving hundreds homeless.

The experts say recognising the dangers around your home is the first step in avoiding such tragedies, whether you live in a high-rise tower or a single-storey villa.

Discarded cigarettes, overloaded electrical sockets and unattended candles are among the most common causes of fires in the home.

Fires can easily be prevented, says Barry Bell, managing director of Wagner Fire Safety Management Consultants.

"Every home is different. I think the most important things are electrical devices and not having multiple plug sockets fully loaded with all sorts of equipment," Mr Bell said.

"Overloading extension leads is pretty dangerous. We often find kids' rooms with toys and clothes lying on the floor and an extension lead with a computer, a stereo system and other appliances all plugged in it.

"It only takes a small spark to land on a pile of cotton clothes or something else that's combustible to start a fire."

He recommended buying quality extension cords from hardware stores instead of cheaper leads from supermarkets.

Unattended candles are a major problem in the UAE, with its mix of cultures.

"People use them for the various festivals," Mr Carey said.

"You have to be sensible about using them and you can't have something like curtains hanging near a candle with an open flame.

"The slightest breeze and it can catch alight."

Another area of great concern is stairwells, the escape route for people living in high-rise towers.

While conducting inspections, Mr Bell regularly finds cardboard boxes, mattresses and piles of old newspapers dumped in stairwells, seriously hindering people's escape in a blaze.

"You name it, we've found it on stairwells," he said.

Residents need to get into the habit of thinking about fire safety, especially when it gets in the way of their habits and daily routines, such as smoking.

"People smoking in bed is a common cause of fires," Mr Bell said.

"The ashtray might be full of bits of rubbish like sweet wrappers that can catch fire from a cigarette butt.

"Then you've got the home's air conditioning blowing air and feeding the fire, the ashes fall out on to a table or floor, papers and magazines catch alight and before you know what's happening it's blazing."

Cigarettes should only be smoked outdoors, advised Mr Bell. "If you're a smoker, consider smoking outside, never in the bedroom.

"Leaving your home for a cigarette greatly reduces the risk of a fire. But never smoke in a stairwell or discard your butts off the balcony."

Dubai Civil Defence says smoking accounts for 25 per cent of fires in homes. Balconies are particularly dangerous.

On January 25, a discarded cigarette thrown from the fourth floor of Al Baker Tower 4 in Sharjah caused a blaze that left 120 families homeless. The butt fell on to a first-floor balcony, igniting papers and clothes.

It burned so fiercely that cladding on the outside of the tower quickly caught fire and the blaze spread to the rest of the building.

"Balconies are not storage areas but people continue to use them or to hang clothes or to smoke shisha," said Mr Bell.

Civil Defence can offer advice to any homeowners or tenants looking to make their house or apartment safe.

"The first move is to go to any of Civil Defence station and pick up a brochure that covers every aspect of fire safety in the home," said a spokesman.

 

eharnan@thenational.ae