Move to cut response times: There is a plan to link all commercial and industrial establishments across the country to the Civil Defence operations room, as part of efforts to speed up response times and minimise damage caused by fires. Picture used for illustrative purposes only. Image Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Dubai: Gulf News readers express frustration over not knowing who to contact when the fire alarms in their buildings ring constantly when there is no actual fire.

Stephen King, a resident of Dubai’s Tecom area, was the first to contact the newspaper to report about the fire alarm in his building ringing at random hours during the day.

He said: “The landlord changed the fire maintenance and management of my building before the summer of 2014. Since then, the building suffers ongoing false alarms. They are daily, and sometimes in the middle of the night or early morning. I have complained to the building management in writing and in person several times. They say it is the responsibility of the contractors, but I spoke to them and they confirmed that they cannot fix the problem. I’ve called the developers, who say they are not responsible. I also contacted the Dubai Civil Defence and no one was able to help me.

“I have also highlighted locked emergency doors in the building and the lack of signage regarding fire safety. No fire drills have been conducted in the past four years. Who do we call for help?”

Nikki Caz, a resident of Sharjah’s Al Mareija area, is also amongst the people who complain about the fire alarm ringing in the middle of the night.

She told Gulf News: “In the building I live in, the alarm starts ringing after 12am. It has happened so many times in the past three years that we know there is definitely no fire, but it is annoying nevertheless. It continues to ring for 20 minutes, until one of the security personnel shuts it down. We’ve complained to the building management several times, but no action was taken. This is a dangerous situation; imagine if there was actually a fire in the building. Anyone in the building can get hurt, or something even worse can happen, because none of us take it seriously now.”

Caz says that the security guard informed that once that it was because people were lighting cigarettes in their homes or hallways.

She said: “I think you would need a little more smoke than that from a cigarette to sound the alarm. I’ve been a resident of this building for five years, and the landlord is never to be found. Nobody in the building knows who to speak to in order to sort this issue. If, God forbid, there was an actual fire someday, we would just have to rely on the services of the Civil Defence.”

Donna Smyth, a resident of Dubai’s Motor City, has had a similar experience.

She said: “The fire alarm in our building goes off so often that if there was a real fire I don’t think anyone would bother to leave their apartments. Sometimes, the alarm rings in the middle of the night and nobody leaves their homes. We are told it is because someone might be smoking.”

There was a fire a few weeks ago and Smyth says the Civil Defence arrived at the scene immediately and the fire was controlled.

She said: “The alarms went off, and one of the residents decided to look over the balcony; that’s how we found out. Other days, no one cares. It makes us negligent, which could be dangerous. Additionally the emergency exits don’t even work in some buildings in our colony. When my husband spoke to the security about this, he was informed that they were told to keep them closed.”

It seems like Smyth isn’t the only one who faces this issue. Ajmal Zulfikar, a resident of Dubai’s International City, also has the same problem in his building.

He said: “Every three to four hours, the alarm goes off and the emergency exits are kept locked. We were told that the exits are misused by some residents, which is why they are closed.”

Zulfikar says the residents of the building, and those of the entire community, do not know who to approach to discuss fire protection.

He said: “I spoke to the building management and was told that this issue exists in many other buildings in the community and they weren’t in charge of fire protection. So who do we speak to? Who do we approach? This is not only inconvenient, but also very dangerous. A month ago, there was a small fire in the building next to mine and the Civil Defence arrived to put it out. But, the buildings should be better equipped. There isn’t even a fire extinguisher in the corridors.”

Mohana Priya, a resident of Al Qusais area in Dubai, has had some training on industrial safety and says the residents in her building are clueless.

She said: “There has never been any fire drill in our building. Sometimes, children tamper the system and the fire alarm starts to ring. The residents rush down, only to find out what actually happened and return to their apartments. But, there need to be proper fire drills so people know what to do in case of an emergency. Some people just ignore the alarms, especially when it rings after midnight.”

Priya has a bag of important documents, which she says she is ready to carry and leave the house in case of fire.

She said: “I have seen people opening the door and checking to see if there’s an actual cause for concern, and then returning to their routines. That’s not safe! There should be a notice in the building to show people what to do if there is a fire. My neighbours have children and it concerns me to think what they would do if a fire were to break out. The security guards cannot run to each apartment to ensure the residents have evacuated. We’ve raised it with the building management several times, but nothing has been done.”

Priya says there are extinguishers in the corridors of the building, but there is never any maintenance provided. She has seen some members of the maintenance crew walking around the building and just peeling off the sticker from the extinguishers and putting on new ones, without any inspection.