Stock Sharjah skyline residential
The Sharjah skyline. Awareness campaigns by Sharjah authorities have helped reduce fire incidents in the emirate. Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News Archives

Sharjah: Awareness campaigns by Sharjah authorities have helped reduce fire incidents in the emirate, which in turn have led to an increased level of safety for buildings. There were 175 recorded incidents of fire in the first half of 2021, as compared to 188 in 2020 — marking a 7 per cent drop, Sharjah Civil Defence said. The Civil Defence department recorded zero deaths due to fire in Sharjah in 2020 and in the first half of this year, compared to two deaths in 2019.

Colonel Sami Khamis Al Naqbi, Director General of Sharjah Civil Defence, in an exclusive interaction with Gulf News, attributed the success to the efforts of the Civil Defence department that took all the necessary measures, mobilised the necessary resources and deployed state-of-the-art technologies to ensure rapid emergency response through qualified firefighting cadres, concerted action and teamwork.

Colonel Sami Khamis Al Naqbi

He noted that Civil Defence followed the field’s best practices, in line with international standards, including deploying the latest technology to ensure the best possible levels of control, security and alarm systems.

Quick response

Sharjah Civil Defence have responded to emergencies in a shorter time span than what standard protocol demands. The department is currently working hard to achieve the fastest possible response time to reports of fire by increasing the number of fire stations in the emirate’s vital areas. “The response time during the first half of this year was 5.1 minutes,” Col Al Naqbi said. Sharjah Civil Defence want to achieve a response time of four minutes by 2022.

Currently, there are 13 Civil Defence stations in the emirate, including four points (smaller operating units). Four new stations have entered into service during this year. These new stations are in Kalba, Al Dhaid, Maleiha and in Sharjah Industrial Area. One more fire station will be opened in the Al Raqeeba area next year.

“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.

Tough inspections

As many as 1,324 establishments in the emirate received warnings from inspectors regarding inadequate fire-safety measures, while 524 establishments were fined. They need to approach the service centres at Civil Defence offices to prove that the situation on their premises has been rectified. Civil Defence are currently coordinating with the authorities concerned, including Sharjah Municipality, Sharjah Electricity and Water Authority, Sharjah Economic Development Department (SEDD) and Sharjah Survey and Planning Department for this purpose.

Col Al Naqbi said most of the recent fires were caused by faulty electrical appliances and overloading of power supply [which causes short circuits in transformer cables], negligence, improper power connections and damaged electrical cables.

In 2020 and also in the first half of this year, Sharjah Civil Defence had carried out major awareness campaigns on the field as well as online campaigns since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic to educate residents, business owners, workers and employees about the importance of implementing fire-safety procedures. Col Al Naqbi also pointed out the importance of spreading the culture of fire prevention by increasing awareness campaigns and programmes involving community members and media outlets, including social media.

Civil Defence have also installed around 7,000 devices in residential buildings to detect smoke.

Rescue Operations

The Rescue department of Sharjah Police was merged with Civil Defence in July this year and it is now a section of Sharjah Civil Defence. All land and marine rescue missions are now handled by Sharjah Civil Defence. As many as 248 rescue operations — including rescuing people stuck in lifts, vehicles and houses — were carried out in 2020, while 144 rescue operations were carried out during the first half of this year.

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Steps taken by Sharjah Civil Defence towards ensuring better fire safety:

— Providing digital and smart services and working remotely round the clock.

— Modernisation of the Civil Defence fleet by the addition of 13 new fire engines.

— Increasing the number of fire and rescue teams by recruiting 172 additional firefighters.

— Opening of two new fire stations at Al Dhaid and Kalba, two Civil Defence points at Al Thamid and Sharjah Expo Center.

— Plan to open a new fire station in Al Raqeeb next year.