Sharjah: Owners whose industrial and commercial buildings are not up to current fire safety codes will foot hefty firefighting bills for putting out any blazes on their premises, warns Sharjah Civil Defence.
If found to have violated the fire safety codes, owners of warehouses, workshops, factories and commercial outlets will be required to cover all costs associated with dousing the blaze, the fire department confirmed.
The charges are based on the number of hours spent extinguishing a fire, the number of fire engines and firefighter teams used, and workers and materials employed during dousing operations.
The charges are being levied on top of fines of up to Dh50,000 for flouting fire codes as prescribed by regulations in the emirate.
Our main priority is to ensure safety for people and at the same time ensure a safe and peaceful environment for the Sharjah industrial areas, which attract a large number of industrial businesses.”
- Col Sami Khamis Al Naqbi | Sharjah Civil Defence chief
During the first six months of this year, six companies have already borne the cost of extinguishing fires on their premises in addition to other fines as they violated safety rules, fire officials told Gulf News.
Colonel Sami Khamis Al Naqbi, director-general of Sharjah Civil Defence, said stricter fire prevention measures are being adopted as part of Ministerial Resolution No. 213 of 2017.
“We decided to implement it here in Sharjah, due to its unique situation related to the size of our industrial areas,” said Col Al Naqbi.
“Our main priority is to ensure safety for people and at the same time, ensure a safe and peaceful environment for the Sharjah Industrial Area, which attracts a large number of industrial businesses in the country,” he said.
“Inspectors from each fire station will be carrying out inspections in the areas they cover to check if these industrial facilities comply with the fire safety regulations,” said Col Al Naqbi.
Intensified prevention measures are working, he said.
“The fire incident rate dropped in Sharjah over the past several years and we hope to reduce it more this year.”
Awareness campaigns have helped reduce fire incidents in the emirate and led to an increased safety for buildings with 158 incidents recorded during the first six months of this year.
In the entire 2017, the department recorded 694 incidents, down from 746 incidents recorded in 2016 and 828 in 2015.
Statistics revealed dramatic improvements in fire-related incidents which placed Sharjah in a better position as compared to previous years.
Col Al Naqbi said the fire incident rate dropped by seven per cent during 2017.
Col Al Naqbi attributed the success to the “directives of leadership to take all necessary measures and mobilise the required resources and state-of-the-art technologies 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”.
He noted that the Civil Defence follows the best practices in line with international standards, including employing the latest know-how to ensure best possible levels of control, security and alarm systems.
The Sharjah Civil Defence has responded to emergencies in a shorter time than the standard protocol demands, Col Al Naqbi said.
The department is currently working hard to achieve the fastest possible response to fire accidents by increasing the number of fire stations in the emirate’s vital areas.
“The response time in 2016 was 6.3 minutes and in 2017 it dropped to 5.3 minutes, while the target was 5.5 minutes,” he said.
The Civil Defence wants to achieve a response time of four minutes by 2022.
Currently, there are 13 Civil Defence stations in the emirate including three points [smaller operating units].
“Fire spreads quickly, so it calls for a quick response to prevent it from spreading. 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 fire location for quicker response,” said Col Al Naqbi.
Onus on firms
Firms that receive warnings from inspectors regarding their inadequate fire safety measures will have to approach service centres at the Civil Defence office to prove that the situation on their premises has been rectified.
The Civil Defence is currently coordinating with other authorities concerned, including the municipality, the Sharjah Electricity and Water Authority, and 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 lines [which causes short circuits in transformer cables], negligence, improper power connections and damaged electric cables.
Currently, insurance companies are not allowed to process insurance services for any business without approval from the Civil Defence.
Violating this rule results in forcing the insurance company to bear all responsibilities in case of accidents.
In 2018, the Civil Defence carried out 13 major awareness campaigns, in addition to six community participation events, to educate business owners, workers and employees about the importance of implementing fire safety procedures.
There will be more awareness campaigns targeting students and companies as well as the public in malls this year.
Col Al Naqbi also pointed out the importance of spreading the culture of fire prevention by increasing awareness activities and programmes, involving community members and media outlets, including social media.