Sharjah: Authorities are asking building owners and tenants for greater fire safety compliance after 80 per cent of 5,000 facilities inspected this year by the Sharjah Prevention and Safety Authority failed their assessment.
Lamia Al Nouman, Director of Support Services at the Authority said that the facilities inspected were in high risk categories such as towers that exceed 10 floors, hospitals and schools. The majority of these facilities have now corrected their violations, said Al Nouman, who was speaking on the sidelines of a safety forum organised by the Middle East Association for the Management of Facilities in Sharjah this week.
Most of the violations related to ineffective maintenance and discarded furniture blocking exits and corridors - this was found to be the most common safety hazard as it hinders the work of emergency services who need to evacuate residents quickly in the event of a fire.
Inspectors ordered building owners and management teams to clear the areas as soon as possible, otherwise they would be slapped with a fine.
Many owners welcomed the notice, which is considered a first warning. If there is no response to that warning then legal action can be taken.
“Inspections focus on public safety requirements such as installation of smoke detectors and firefighting equipment. We also assess emergency exits, validity of elevators, procedures, and many other things,” said Al Nouman.
About 250 facilities have been fitted with safety devices such as smoke detectors that have been linked to the operations room and next year the authority plans to connect 4,200 more facilities to the system. Not only will response times be improved in emergency cases but the operating room will also be able to tell if a detector has malfunctioned, enabling maintenance teams to be notified so that they can fix the issue.
Shaikh Khalid bin Saqr Al Qasimi, Chairman of the Sharjah Prevention and Safety Authority, said, “Our participation in the forum is based on our direct interest in the security and safety of lives in order to reach a safe and risk-free society.
“To achieve this vision, we met today with prevention and safety experts to discuss the latest safety strategies globally, put prevention in an important discussion paper, work on rapid response to events and develop proactive plans to ensure the safety of lives and property in all facilities in the emirate.”
In September, a joint initiative to reduce fire risks called ‘Safe Sharjah’ was launched in collaboration with Sharjah Civil Defence, Sharjah Municipality, Sharjah Electricity and Water Authority and the Prevention and Safety Department.
All government entities now work together to inspect residential, industrial and commercial premises in the emirate to ensure that they comply with fire safety regulations.
Why was the initiative launched?
Because thousands of violations were discovered in previous inspections.
No fines will be imposed on violators initially, but they will be given a two-month grace period to correct the violation.
Mohammad Abdullah, Director of Excellence Administration at Sharjah Electricity and Water Authority (SEWA), said SEWA was keen to cooperate with all government agencies to raise awareness on vital issues related to safety. He added that they would educate the community on the overloading of electrics and the need to replace old appliances and wiring.
Awareness would be spread through campaigns in Arabic, English and Urdu, he said, in order to reach out to the entire community.
The Sharjah Contact Centre will receive all enquiries regarding the initiative and respond around the clock, while sending out awareness messages to the public, added Abdullah.
Lieutenant Colonel Abdul Rahman Al Mazmi, Head of the Industrial Protection Section at the General Directorate of Sharjah Civil Defence, added that they would distribute free smoke detectors and cancel previous fines, as part of their commitment to the campaign.
Adel Omar, Director of the Control and Municipal Inspection Department of Sharjah Municipality, said the city would be divided into zones, with residential areas checked first, before moving on to commercial and industrial areas.
Most common violations
- Lack of maintenance of fire safety devices
- Failure to house fire safety equipment
- Blocked corridors, stairways and emergency exits
- Illegal power connection
How you can help Sharjah Civil Defence
By avoiding bad habits such has drying clothes in staircases or blocking stairways or exits and entrances with bicycles or storage boxes. Exits should be clear in case the building needs to be evacuated quickly. Tenants should also report if fire equipment is missing or appears faulty.