When the UAE rolled out Hassantuk last year, the region’s largest automated integrated system for accelerating both emergency responses and building system repairs to ensure round-the-clock public safety, it augmented the other major efforts by the authorities such as the updated UAE Fire Safety Code in 2011. The spate of fire incidents, and the consequent fatalities, in recent years in the country — including in villas, high-rises and industrial units — have reinforced the need to raise awareness of fire safety among the public and Hassantuk is at the forefront of this endeavour. But there are challenges, as is evident from figures revealed last week wherein, of the 2,500 fire alerts recorded by the system, only seven alarms were related to actual fires.

These false alarms, generated due to a host of human oversights such as cigarette smoke, incense burning and other domestic pursuits are at one end of the challenge with the other end pointing to technical matters such as faulty smoke sensors and/or configurational problems in fire alarm panels. Both issues require redressal at the earliest, and the authorities are right in focusing on an awareness campaign for residents. The issue of fire safety is, at its most fundamental level, a civic responsibility. This means that every resident should adopt a common sense approach to smoke-emanating practises and fire-generating devices at home and at work, and be armed with a basic understanding of how a fire-alarm system works.

Regarding the faulty fire-safety installations or the glitches therein, the responsibility for this is also with the primary stakeholders in fire safety — building owners, developers and vendors. Every attempt must be made by them to ensure that the systems they install in premises are in perfect working condition at all times because the success of Hassantuk, and its avowed purpose of providing residents with uncompromising safety, is dependant on these factors.

Also, if a premises, residential or commercial, generates a false fire alarm, it must be investigated immediately by the owner of the building and fixed so the time, effort and resources of the authorities are not wasted.

That a majority of the 2,500 fire alerts were not related to actual fires, while being a statistical relief, is also a pointer to the greater sense of commitment required by residents and building owners to ensure that they help the authorities in reaching the 2021 goal — of making the UAE one of the safest countries in the world.