20% drop in fire incidents: How Sharjah fortified its fire safety regime
- Sharjah firefighters achieved faster average response time of 4.76 minutes in 2022, compared to 4.86 minutes in 2021.
- Sharjah Civil Defence recorded 235 incidents — with one death — due to fire vs. 293 fire incidents in 2021 with — three deaths due to fire — a 20 per cent drop.
Sharjah: Swifter response time, the use of latest technology, strict training for service providers and intensive safety awareness campaigns have all contributed to significantly reduce both the severity and incidence of fires in the emirate, a top Sharjah Civil Defence official has said.
In an exclusive interview with Gulf News, Col. Sami Khamis Al Naqbi, director-general of Sharjah Civil Defence, outlined how the department is developing its own innovative firefighting solutions as well as expanding the capacity of fire stations and their equipment.
Faster response time: 4.76 minutes
This has led to faster average response time: 4.76 minutes in 2022 — compared to 4.86 minutes in 2021, a rate of decrease of 2.05 per cent.
It means Sharjah Civil Defence has responded to emergencies faster than what standard protocol demands, Col Al Naqbi said.
To achieve the “fastest possible” response time to reports of fire, the department has increased the number of fire stations in the emirate’s key areas.
Fatalities dropped 66.66%
Col. Al Naqbi said during 2022, the department recorded 235 incidents — with one death — due to fire. This is compared to 293 fire incidents recorded in 2021 with — three deaths due to fire — a 20 per cent drop (58 less incidents).
Fire spreads quickly, so it calls for a quick response. The department has also linked all commercial and industrial establishments in the emirate to the Civil Defence Operations Room to alert firefighters and pinpoint the location of a fire for faster response
“Fire spreads quickly, so it calls for a quick response. The department has also linked all commercial and industrial establishments in the emirate to the Civil Defence Operations Room to alert firefighters and pinpoint the location of a fire for faster response,” said Col Al Naqbi.
Culture of safety, community awareness
The officer attributed the decrease in the rate of fire due to the increase of community member’s awareness, increase in fire stations, installation of smoke detection devices — which are connected to the central operations room — as well as implementing fire alarm systems.
Sharjah Civil Defence has also installed around 9,000 smoke detection devices in houses and residential buildings and a similar number of devices in commercial and industrial establishments.
Sharjah Civil Defence had carried out major awareness campaigns in the field — as well as online — to educate residents, business owners and employees about the importance of implementing fire-safety procedures.
Col Al Naqbi also stressed on the importance of spreading the culture of fire prevention by involving community members and media outlets, including social media.
Certificate of Conformity
Owners of old establishments and warehouses in Sharjah’s industrial area are also urged to update their safety systems.
Col. Al Naqbi said some old premises established 20 or 30 years ago in Sharjah Industrial area are still running their companies and warehouses without updating their safety system.
Now, owners of the buildings are required to have a Certificate of Conformity with prevention and safety systems required by Sharjah Civil Defence.
For your safety and the safety of your property, if you’re an owner of an old company and warehouse, you need to update your safety system to get this conformity certificate.
As such, the owner must have an annual maintenance contract, renewed on time, in order to update safety systems and fire equipment.
Col. Al Naqbi said: “For your safety and the safety of your property, if you’re an owner of an old company and warehouse, you need to update your safety system to get this conformity certificate. The owner will be given a grace period to update the fire prevention and safety systems, remove all violations, (including) goods that violate the licence, so he can carry on with normal business.”
“It is hard for someone who built his name and business for 30 years, and comes to me without complying with the safety conditions. I ask him to cancel the license as he does not adhere to the required safety standards in his company. The violations show in the company safet data. This grace period allows them to amend their situation — before we take a serious action against them.”
Any facility that does not have a certificate of fulfillment will not be accepted by insurance companies, he explained, adding that in case of fire, the owner will not be compensated if the property is not properly insured.
He said: “Nowadays, insurers use experts to investigate incidents in order to discover or dispute claims on fires that broke out caused by deliberate action so as to claim insurance.”
Moreover, Col. Al Naqbi said insurance companies that insure any facility that does not have a fulfillment certificate will be penalised.
Property offices must also adhere to the certain conditions and obtain a Certificate of Conformity with Sharjah Civil Defence.
This requires that the each building has an annual maintenance contract renewed periodically, safety systems are updated and fire-fighting equipment are kept up to speed. “Otherwise they face serious actions, and will get no insurance cover,” he said.
The MoU comes as part of efforts by the university’s College of Engineering (CEN) to offer its professional expertise to enhance community engagement.
The program trains professional engineers, engineering consultants and experts working in the field of safety and fire engineering.
It is open to professional organisations and companies wishing to achieve this certification. The programme aims to improve the quality of life in Sharjah’s community by offering services that come with the highest standards to protect lives and property from fire hazards.
The programme begins with a placement exam, followed by online modules offered by CEN faculty members on the fundamentals of fire protection, fire detection and protection systems, and chemical process safety, among others.
Upon completion, trainees get a certificate in fire safety engineering. Col. Al Naqbi said: “Any establishment that wants to licence firefighting companies, we evaluate them, everyone must take this test. Whoever passes completes the company, and whoever fails takes a week-long course at the American University and a one-day exam until they get the license (from Civil Defence).
If a company with five people takes the test, and three of them passed, the other who failed must enroll in a training course and are not allowed to practice their work in the company until they complete the course.
If he succeeds, he will be licensed, and if he does not succeed, he will not be licensed (this applies to all fire safety companies). Companies from all over the UAE, go to Sharjah to get this certificate, he said.
Each training session can have up to 60 enrollees for classes conducted on weekdays (tests on weekends). Cameras monitor the testing hall and test is done through online modules.
To pass, applicant must achieve a score of 70 per cent. Those who fail must retake the course, which costs under Dh500, he said. Passing the test is a prerequisite for certification and accreditation for all fire safety system service providers.