DUBAI // “Passing the buck” on fire safety will be halted by the updated Fire and Life Safety Code to be released next month.
A new section on responsibility puts the onus on consultants and developers as well as residents – owners and tenants – to keep a building safe from fire.
In another key provision, the main consultant, manufacturer or supplier of fire safety material, plus an independent third-party inspection agency, must jointly sign off on completion of every project before final approval from the civil defence.
“This has made the responsibilities very clear so that no one can claim it’s ‘not part of my function’,” said Sajid Raza, a member of the Fire Code Council which is involved in workshops with other consultants working with Dubai Civil Defence. “This serves a purpose so authorities can get hold of the party concerned if any incident does occur.”
Each chapter of the code contains a section on accountability.
“This comes from international requirements as in most states in the US where three main parties signing off is mandatory,” said Mr Raza, vice president of Butler Engineering consultancy.
“After The Address fire, the civil defence and Ministry of Interior clearly decided to place responsibility on different units.
“Accountability of the main consultant was under discussion for many years but had not taken shape, so this is a very good move, since not everyone can approach and submit documents to civil defence but only the main consultant or principal architect.”
The swiftness with which flames raced up The Address Downtown Dubai hotel on New Year’s Eve, and the recent blaze at the Ajman One development, resulted in revisions and additions delaying the code’s release.
Meetings and education workshops have led to risk assessments of buildings with facades of combustible plastic filled aluminium composite panels.
“After analysing the accidents, we put strict rules and tests into the code. All emirates have been working together,” said Maj Gen Rashid Thani Al Matrooshi, director general of Dubai Civil Defence.
“Implementation is critical,” said Drew Azzara, Middle East executive director for the National Fire Protection Association, a global non-profit organisation.
“That is why there is a high level of commitment to education and training about the use and application of the code so everyone is on the same page,” he said. “Codes and standards are always revised to keep up with latest technology.”
The code will include sections on access for the disabled and buildings powered by solar energy with test certificates requirements for solar panels.
It also outlines the responsibilities of residents if fires are sparked by barbecues and shisha, asks developers to provide firefighting infrastructure, holds consultants responsible for at least a year after project delivery and specifies duties of schools and hospitals on safety.
Other changes include prosecuting manufacturers who sell unapproved building material and annual renewal of no-objection certificates by building owners.
Rolling out the code will be key since consultants often take preliminary approval from civil defence as the final stamp.
“Currently once a system is approved, contractors cut corners and consultants do not have the manpower to control installation,” Mr Raza said.
“But the code is focusing on third-party inspections so that every installation is properly inspected.”
(via The National)