Al Tayer Tower in Al Nahda (left) and Al Baker Tower. Residents of two Sharjah tower blocks have suffered the trauma of seeing their homes go up in smoke recently. Image Credit: Ahmed ramzan/Gulf News & Gulf News Archive

Dubai: Use of cladding will be restricted in new buildings in the UAE following a new set of regulations to be added to the UAE Fire and Safety Code, an official said on Sunday.

Maj Gen Rashid Thani Al Matroushi, director of Dubai Civil Defence, said some of the new regulations will include not using cladding for buildings that are higher than nine storeys.

“If a building owner wants to use cladding, then there needs to be a road around the building that would allow fire trucks to go around the building, if not, then the building should not use cladding,” he said.

For buildings higher than nine storeys, if construction companies want to use cladding, they should use the cladding in a small section of the building.

“For example, use cladding in two floors, then have two floors made of cement, to prevent the fire from spreading,” he said.

Maj Gen Al Matroushi added that for shorter buldings, such as showrooms, they can use cladding as a fire can easily be controlled.

Cost efficient, but hazardous

He said that most companies choose to use cladding because it looks good and is cost-efficient.

These regulations were the result of the meetings of teams that were formed on orders from Lt Gen Shaikh Saif Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior, to check all buildings in the UAE especially for flammable cladding and also for any other discrepancies, whether inside or outside the building, that could be potential fire hazards or in conflict with the Fire and Life Safety code.

For old buildings, solutions will be provided case by case, once the survey of all buildings is completed.

The official was speaking on the sidelines of Intersec, which was inaugurated by Shaikh Mansour Bin Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum on Sunday. Intersec, which runs from January 17-19 at the Dubai International Convention and Exhibition Centre, is an international security and safety exhibition, which was recently recognised as the largest security and safety exhibition in the world.

This year, 1,290 exhibitors from 55 countries have come together under one roof to showcase their latest technology.

The official also announced that Dubai Civil Defence has ordered two fire trucks with strong pumps that can put out fires in buildings as high as 100 floors. The ladders of the fire trucks used by the Civil Defence at present reach 18 floors. The official was talking on the sidelines of the 18th edition of Intersec.

Maj Gen Al Matroushi said the two fire trucks have powerful pumps that pressurise the water seven times more than regular pumps. “The new trucks pump foam and water simultaneously which makes the hose lighter and easier to handle than if it was all pressurised water,” he said.

He said that they ordered these two trucks following the Torch building fire. “We have tested one of the trucks before buying them on a 96-floor building and it performed very well.”

One of the vehicles will be stationed in the Bur Dubai area and the other in the Deira area.

Body cameras

Meanwhile, inspectors from Dubai Civil Defence will soon wear cameras in their breast pockets to document inspections, an official said on Sunday.

Lt Col Jamal Ahmad Ebrahim, director of the Preventive Safety Department at Dubai Civil Defence, said the videos taken with the new cameras will be used for two purposes; training new inspectors and as evidence when companies contest inspection results.

Dubai Civil Defence has acquired 35 cameras to be used by their 45 inspectors.

“We have tried the cameras in two inspections. When the inspector is done, he uploads the video through a software that keeps track of all the videos,” he said.

This new technology was on display at the Intersec exhibition.

Lt Col Ebrahim said the cameras are part of the smart inspection system. Other smart inspection tools include a smart inspection app, which provides the inspector with a checklist and the ability to add additional notes.

“The inspector can carry out the inspection from his smartphone, which can also be attached to the new smaller RFID [radio frequency identification] scanners, that enable the inspector to scan all tagged fire equipment,”

RFID technology transmits the identity and location of an object using radio waves, so they can know the exact location of the equipment at all times.

When a tagged item is scanned, the inspectors get the detailed information of the item, what it is, the manufacturer, where it is supposed to be located, etc.

There is also a new inspection management software that he said will make the department’s operation more efficient.

“For example, the new system will allow the manager to know the location of the inspectors at any given time, so if there is an urgent pending case that needs attending to, the manager — through the system — can assign the inspector closest to it,” he said.

Ahmad Pauwels, CEO of Intersec’s organiser, Messe Frankfurt Middle East, said that the trading value of the security industry in the Middle East is estimated at more that $10 billion (Dh36.73 billion) a year.

“Our marketing and research team estimated that 25 per cent of that figure will be traded here, in Intersec, so almost $2.5 billion. Last year’s trading was estimated at $2.2 billion,” he said.

He said that it is always a pleasure to have Shaikh Mansour open the exhibition as “he is very interested in the security sector, tours most of the exhibition and asks a lot of questions. This is the fifth year that he is opening the exhibition”.

This year, Intersec introduced the new Smart Home section as a starting point to showcase technologies that support smarter, safer, and more energy- efficient buildings in Dubai, the UAE, and the wider Middle East.

Another new feature in the exhibition this year is a careers pavilion.

Pauwels said, “At least 100 [companies] have officially confirmed new product launches, from the world’s first and only remote-controlled firefighting support machine to smart home security systems using the latest building automation technologies.”

Intersec 2016 spans 50,000 square metres, and will have 14 country pavilions.

Other new additions this year include a Safety Design in Buildings Pavilion in the Fire and Rescue section, along with a dedicated Jobs and Careers Pavilion, bringing thousands of professionals together with specialist security-related recruitment companies.