(MENAFN - Khaleej Times) The majority of fires in residential buildings are caused by negligence as people overlook safety regulations and guidelines, said the top civil defence official.
To spread preventive awareness among families, the General Command of Civil Defence carried out a campaign titled Families' Safety at Homes, throughout the country for six months, Civil Defence General Commander-in-Chief, Major-General Rashid Thani Al Matroushi, revealed in the July edition of 999 magazine.
"The campaign included visits by Civil Defence teams to 206,490 houses across different emirates, out of the country's total of 336,322 houses, or 61.4 per cent of all UAE houses. During the campaign, 1.3 million brochures were distributed among the families, with an average of one brochure for every six people of the UAE population," Maj.-Gen. Matroushi said in an interview with the official English monthly magazine of the Ministry of Interior. While some of the fires this year have been doused without major damage to property, some others were tragic, resulting in unfortunate loss of lives and property worth millions of dollars.
Lt Colonel Awadh Saleh Al Kindi, Editor-in-Chief of 999, said: "A recent spate of fire incidents in the UAE and across the Gulf has exposed alarming issues in the fire-safety mechanism of the GCC nations, prompting calls for an overhaul of safety standards, harsh penalties for violators and awareness drives for the public.
"Most tragically, in most cases, it was individual or collective negligence that was responsible for the start of the blaze, which was then aggravated due to inflammable material in the vicinity, with the spark turning into a tragedy due to the general public's lack of awareness and readiness in dealing with the incident."
Fire safety has been a top priority for authorities, and the Civil Defence has stepped up efforts to educate people on fire prevention and response. Last year, General Command of Civil Defence carried out a nationwide door-to-door campaign, educating residents on fire safety. Residents were also warned not to leave oil in pans on the cooking hub, not to overload electrical connections and to check water heaters. The ultimate aim of the campaign is to cut down reaction time from the current 5-7 minutes to zero minute by turning householders and commercial workers into the first line of fire-fighters. Following reports on the risk of non-fire-rated cladding in residential high-rises, there are moves to revise the UAE Fire and Life Safety Code in order to prohibit such cladding panels on tower blocks.
"Due to its strategic importance, Civil Defence teams continue to implement the safety campaign in industrial areas all over the country," said Maj-Gen Matroushi.
"The campaign, from March 20 to June 20, included inspections of 29,057 factories, warehouses and workers' accommodations, removal of irregularities in 9,711 facilities and buildings, start of training of 63,745 workers and employees on safety skills, and distribution of 84,166 brochures on fire safety guidelines in industrial areas during the first two months of the campaign, in which 1.15 million employees are being targeted," he said.
Moreover, within the framework of the Civil Defence's vision and strategic objectives for spreading and consolidating the preventive culture and the safety skills against risks, a series of awareness training programmes were carried out in schools, which aimed at inculcating safe behaviour in the
minds of children of different age groups. "The outreach teams in all regional departments of the Civil Defence implement awareness programmes in various government and private facilities and buildings, including evacuation exercises," he added.