Care­less ten­ants need to brush up on fire safety

Show com­mon sense, urges fire ex­pert

7 Days in Dubai - - FRONT PAGE - pa­trick@7days.ae

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

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