A fire extinguisher cabinet being used to store newspapers and electronics. Image Credit: Neola Castelino

Dubai

I want to raise awareness about the misuse of fire extinguisher cabinets found on building floors. A few days ago, I was visiting a friend in Al Nahda 2 area of Dubai and came across a cabinet, which was left open (as seen in photograph). I saw a lot of things stored inside the cabinet, along with the fire extinguisher. This sight shocked me!

Upon closer inspection, I noticed a lot of old electronic items in cloth bags, and newspapers, inside the cabinet. On seeing this, I visited other floors of the building and saw that the cabinets weren’t closed properly and many items were stored inside. In such cases, it would not be possible to remove the water hose in case of fire incidents in the building.

A simple search on the internet shows that fire cabinets have to be kept at a certain height and should be closed at all times so that children don’t misuse them. The cabinets need to be kept empty and only items that are necessary for use in case of a fire should be stored. In case of an emergency, it would then be easier to use the water hose.

On speaking to a friend who lives in the building, I was surprised to know how many of her immediate neighbours leave their newspapers in the cabinets. I gave her a suggestion. I told her to ask her neighbours to give her all their old newspapers. So, she now collects them for recycling, thus preventing papers from being accumulated in the cabinet.

Anitha, another resident of the building, is also unhappy with the situation. She was worried that if there was ever a fire, the newspaper and cloth stored in the cabinets would also catch fire, thus making it impossible for anyone to reach the water hose. She said: “The whole cabinet would be in flames.”

If the first responders are unable to use the fire cabinet in case of emergency, it would lead to more injuries or deaths than expected.

People should be educated on the importance of fire cabinets and must not store anything inside them. In this situation, we cannot blame the building authorities. The tenants should know the importance of cabinets and not misuse them. The building management should pass a strict notice to all tenants about the same.

— The reader is a student based in Dubai.

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FACTBOX

According to the UAE Fire and Life Safety Code of Practice issued by the Ministry of Interior, there are specific rules for the installation and maintenance of portable fire extinguishers in buildings.

The wall mount for these extinguishers should be installed in a way that the top of the fire extinguisher is not more than 1.5 metres above the floor and the distance between the bottom of the extinguisher to the floor should not be less than 30cm. Operating instructions should be clearly visible.

If a fire hose cabinet is installed in corridors, passage ways or lobby areas, proper identification signs have to be placed on the cabinet and the front door should be made of glass and allow clear view of the extinguisher. The cabinet has to be kept clean and all fire extinguishers should be inspected at regular intervals, not more than 30 days. Additionally, the cabinets should not be kept locked in case of an emergency within the facility.