Firefighters battle the blaze at Burj Eiffel in Sharjah Industrial Area 10 on June 28, 2017. As many as 694 fires were reported in Sharjah in 2017 as compared to 746 in 2016 and 828 in 2015. Image Credit: Arshad Ali/Gulf News Archives

Sharjah: Awareness campaigns by Sharjah have helped reduce fire incidents in the emirate and led to an increased safety for buildings with 694 incidents recorded in 2017 as compared to 746 in 2016 and 828 in 2015.

Colonel Sami Khamis Al Naqbi, director-general of Sharjah Civil Defence, in an exclusive interview with Gulf News, said the fire incident rate dropped by seven per cent during 2017.

Col Al Naqbi attributed the success to the directives of Lt-General Shaikh Saif Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior, 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 field’s best practices in line with international standards, including employing the latest know-how to ensure best possible levels of control, security and alarm systems.

Quick response

The Civil Defence has responded to emergencies in a shorter time than the standard protocol demands. 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 is 5.5 minutes,” he said.

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.

Tough inspections

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 the 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 [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 2017, the Civil Defence carried out a number of major awareness campaigns 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.

Seven lives lost

Seven people were killed in fires in Sharjah last year even as the number of fires attended to by firefighters dropped by seven per cent last year as compared to 2016.

Statistics revealed dramatic improvements in fire-related incidents which placed Sharjah in a better position as compared to previous years.