Careless tenants need to brush up on fire safety
Show common sense, urges fire expert
I know of cases where people have died just looking for their keys to get out of the apartment – Fire safety expert Andy Dean
T oo many residents are failing to show common sense when it comes to fire prevention, placing themselves and their neighbours at risk, according to one expert involved in writing Dubai’s fire safety code.
Tossing cigarettes from buildings and even hosting barbecues on balconies are among the careless practices that lead to preventable blazes, said Andy Dean, Head of Facades at the engineering and design firm WSP Parsons Brinckerhoff.
Dubai has witnessed a series of high-profile fires in recent months, often in high-rise buildings that are home to hundreds of people.
And while there are a number of factors involved, Dean, who spoke to 7DAYS at the industry summit Cityscape last week, believes that people can do more to reduce the risks.
He said: “Every building should have a fire safety strategy.
“In the larger buildings these can be quite complex, but even basic ones like villas can have one. It could be something as simple as having your keys to hand. “I know of cases where people have died just looking for their keys to get out of their apartments in the event of a fire. “You should consider changing the locks inside the exit door so you don’t need a key to get out, you can easily install a thumb turn lock where all you have to do is turn it.” Dean, who is involved in updating Dubai’s fire safety code this year, which also covers the materials that can be used in the construction of buildings, said he does not feel there are factors that are unique to Dubai. He also said some residents take a short-term view when it comes to looking after the building they live in: “You have to ask, do people actually care about the long-term safety of a building if they are only living here for a year? “One problem is barbecues, some people like to have barbecues each weekend. “It is very unlikely that barbecuing on a balcony is a good idea but it happens.
“Then there is also the issue of smoking.
“There is a high number of incidents of people throwing their cigarettes off a balcony, which was the cause of the 2012 Tamweel Tower fire.
“This is an ongoing problem and it’s certainly not unique to Dubai, but what’s to stop a cigarette being thrown off a balcony and landing on someone’s washing?
“Cigarettes are a ready-made source of ignition as well.”
Dean said human error often plays a significant part whenever there is a fire.
He said: “It’s nearly always because there has been a failure somewhere along the line, be it human error or an electrical fault, for example.” Aside from fires, another danger for residents of tall apartment buildings is balcony falls. Dubai and Sharjah have seen a number of child deaths this year. Dean said most buildings are constructed to standard, but that human error is the cause of most falls. He said: “The UAE has a requirement height of 1.2m when most other countries are 1.1m.” One problem is when people put furniture up against the balustrades. He said: “The code specifies no climbable furniture and other objects near balustrades. “There is also advice on not leaving children unattended on balconies. “Even with the best will in the world you can’t design for mischief.”
BLAZE: Tamweel Tower in JLT caught fire in November 2012 after a cigarette was tossed from a balcony
SAFETY: Andy Dean