Sharjah: Owners whose industrial and commercial buildings that are not up to the current fire safety standards will have to foot firefighting bills at their premises, Sharjah Civil Defence has warned.
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 a 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 safety codes as prescribed by regulations in the emirate.
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 were found to have 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 emirate, 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.
Fire incidence rate drops
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 2019, the department recorded a seven per cent decrease in fire incidents compared to the year before.
Statistics revealed dramatic improvements in fire-related incidents which placed Sharjah in a better position as compared to previous years.
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 2019 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,” Col Al Naqbi added.
Responsibility 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. Currently, insurance companies are not allowed to process insurance claims for any business without approval from the Civil Defence. Insurance companies will be violated if they make an insurance policy for any building that does not meet safety regulations. They should approach the Civil Defence to make sure of the building situation. Violating this rule results in forcing the insurance company to bear all responsibilities in case of accidents.
Col. Al Naqbi is calling on property owners, investors , and tenants to adhere to safety rules and to share responsibility with the Civil Defence to protect their premises and their lives. If a tenant notices any violations in their building such as random storage, faulty fire alarm systems, etc, they should approach the Civil Defence to take action against the building owner. He also urged property owners to include condition in tenancy contract and make tenant sign on it to not smoke in balcony.
Building inspections via Zoom
As much as 90 per cent of building inspections were carried out via Zoom since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. As many as 533 buildings were inspected and 185 certifcates of achievement issued whilst using the videotelephony service.