Firefighters try to clear the fire at a warehouse in Sharjah industrial area. Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News Archives

Sharjah: The Sharjah Civil Defence is considering introducing a first-of-its kind award for buildings that can demonstrate their commitment to safety regulations, Gulf News can reveal.

In an exclusive interview, Colonel Sami Khamis Al Naqbi, director-general of Sharjah Civil Defence, said the Sharjah Building Safety Award will set a precedent not just in the UAE but in the entire region as it will recognise and rate buildings based on specific criteria related to safety requirements that must be met by owners.

The institution of the award gains significance in light of the rise in the number of building fires during summer. Just last week, a building under construction caught fire in Business Bay, Dubai, resulting in the death of a firefighter.

How Sharjah improved fire safety
How Sharjah improved fire safety Image Credit: Gulf News

The categories that the award will cover include residential towers and villas, and commercial, industrial and educational buildings.

Col Al Naqbi said the winners of the award will receive several incentives, including discounts on some services.

The project is being finalised and will be implemented soon.

Awareness campaigns

Col Sami Khamis Al Naqbi

Col Al Naqbi said awareness campaigns by the authorities in Sharjah helped reduce fire incidents and led to increased safety for buildings. The number of building fire incidents dropped from 346 in 2017 to 325 last year, he said, adding that the Civil Defence had carried out 184 mock drills in 2018, up from 112 in 2017.

He said the awareness campaigns, which were conducted in different languages including Arabic, English, Urdu, Hindi and Tagalog, benefitted 141,402 people in 2018, against 136,145 in 2017.

Col Al Naqbi said state-of-the-art technologies were being employed to ensure rapid emergency response through qualified firefighting cadres, concerted action and teamwork to help achieve the goals of the General Command of the Civil Defence.

“The response time in 2017 was 6.2 minutes and in 2018 it dropped to 5.3 minutes,” the colonel said.

The Civil Defence has responded to emergencies in a shorter time than the standard protocol demands, he said, adding that the number of fire stations in the emirate’s key areas will be increased from the current 10 to 17 in order to achieve a better response time.


Sharjah fire incidents in 2018

He said the department launched its first motorbike as a first responder to reach the fire site during peak hours and in crowded places. The motorbike is equipped with two fire extinguishers, masks and first aid boxes

“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 exact fire location for quicker response,” said Col Al Naqbi.

He said the department also conducts regular inspections of buildings. Firms that receive warnings from inspectors regarding their inadequate fire safety measures will have to approach service centres at Civil Defence to prove that they are corrected.

The Civil Defence is currently coordinating with the municipality, Sharjah Electricity and Water Authority, Sharjah Economic Development Department and Sharjah Survey and Planning Department to achieve greater safety of buildings.

Col Al Naqbi said most of the recent fires were caused by faulty electrical appliances and powers supply overload, negligence, improper power connections and damaged electric cables.


people benefited from awareness campaigns

The Aman programme had also ensured better prevention, safety and security through its smart, early detection and rapid warning system on a 24/7 basis.

Currently, insurance companies are not allowed to process insurance services for any business without approval from the Civil Defence.

Violating this rule results in the insurance company having to bear the responsibility in case of accidents, Col Al Naqbi added.

Code of Practice

All buildings in the UAE must comply with the Fire and Life safety Code of Practice which clearly outlines standards that ensure safety. The standards pertain to a wide range of requirements including structural and design components, construction materials used, occupancy levels, besides installation of fire extinguishers and proper access to fire safety vehicles.