New Dubai fire law to stub out balcony smokers in high-rises

A new legislation regarding fire safety in residential buildings in Dubai will takes into account the responsibility of owners and tenants towards the maintenance of fire safety equipment in buildings and of general fire safety as well, according to a top official at the fire department of the Dubai Civil Defence.

 The UAE Fire and Life Safety Code of Practice and related additional annexes is designed to raise awareness of tenants and owners as a responsibility towards fire safety.

Inspections will be carried out and negligence will result in warnings, followed by a fine. The legislation will apply to all buildings for public use.

Every building in Dubai is inspected by a team from the Civil Defence at least once a year.

The team inspects whether the fire safety strategy and equipment are maintained, not compromised and sufficiently in place.

Often this is not the case, says Terry Johnson, Senior Fire Service Advisor at the Operational Department of Civil Defence.

"When a building is designed the Civil Defence Fire Safety and Engineering Department checks the fire strategy for the premises.

“The building is then built according to this fire strategy, and as it is built we check again.

"After the occupants entered the building, it is up to the owners and tenants to maintain the life safety systems and ensure the fire strategy remains intact as was originally designed and accepted.

"A lot of times the fire safety of the building is compromised by the occupants."

Terry gives an example.

The fire staircase is a fire resistant gateway, which should always be the safe way to escape in case of fire.

Fire doors that lead to this staircase are able to resist fire for an hour or more, and furthermore resist smoke from entering the staircase.

These doors should always be kept closed.

"But there are people who open these doors and wedge them in the open position, often to smoke a cigarette in the staircase.

“When that happens, that door is no longer a fire door, because it would not hold back the fire. If any fire door is wedged open at any time this then renders the staircase, in a fire situation, as 'un-safe'.

"Furthermore, there should never be a fire in the staircase, as there must never be any combustible materials, such as carpets or paintings.

“We see a lot of staircases where people have left behind such items on the staircase."

Last week two fires in two different residential buildings woke up residents from their sleep.

On Sunday morning the 34-floor high-rise Tamweel Tower in Jumeirah Lakes Tower (JLT) caught flame, after which the fire quickly spread.

on Monday another fire erupted in Mankhool Building in Bur Dubai.

A four-storey building was lit and needed to be evacuated. In both incidents there were no casualties and residents safely evacuated the building.

However, the incidents did flame up the awareness of residents about fire safety.

Likely anyone who saw what happened in JLT or Bur Dubai has taken a look around in his/her own building, wondering about the fire strategy in case a fire broke out.

It is recommended each and every resident has their own fire plan, says Terry.

This plan can include storing a fire blanket in the kitchen, knowing how to escape from an apartment, house or building and where the nearest fire door and exit is located.

"This plan should be rehearsed from time to time by each family."

But the preparedness should also include awareness about the building facilities.

In most buildings there should be a fire alarm, sprinklers, possibly smoke extraction, fire protection mechanisms and engineered solutions such as a fire staircase.

"This applies to old and new buildings," says Terry.

"Get to know what is in your fire cabinet down the hall. Go down and speak to the reception about the life safety systems if you see something missing.

“Or if you see fire hazardous practice by your neighbours or other tenants you can report this.

And if you have doubts or an inquiry, Civil Defence is only one phone call away, we have experts on hand all too pleased to give advice," he adds.

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