Comment : Hot topic

Another day. Another fire in Dubai

COMMENT, MEP

Another day. Another building fire in Dubai. This time it was Sulafa Tower in Dubai Marina that went up in flames. Despite the numerous blazes that have happened in the emirate over recent years, nonetheless it never fails to shock when one does break out. In the case of the Sulafa Tower fire, the cause of the blaze is still under investigation. Thankfully there we no reported deaths.

However, the incident does serve to highlight the fact the updated UAE Fire and Life Safety Code of Practice can’t come out quick enough. The Code was supposed to have been released in March – so it is well overdue.

One point however that the updated Code is unlikely to address is how to tackle Dubai’s older building stock? Older buildings will always be more susceptible to fires as they were built at a time when the regulations were less stringent.

The problem with retrofitting these buildings lies in the fact that it is a costly undertaking for a building owner or developer. It is also an admission on their part that they got it wrong the first time.

You can see how these two factors might dampen enthusiasm for retrofitting. In many ways, it’s a fingers crossed approach – something akin to saying: ‘Oh well the fire happened there but I hope it doesn’t happen here’.

It can certainly be no coincidence that whenever a fire, or simply a major incident occurs in a neighbouring building, notices go up in my building (usually in the elevators) reminding us tenants about health and safety.

Now that’s fair enough from a public awareness perspective, but are building owners/developers really running the rule over their own properties when they see these types of incidents occurring elsewhere, or are they just telling the facilities management to put up posters in the public areas?

I’ve certainly heard numerous people say in the wake of the Sulafa fire that they would rather live in a ground floor apartment. Sadly, it just shows that people genuinely worry that if a fire can happen in one building, it can happen in theirs too.

People should feel safe about where they live, not live in fear that something will inevitably go wrong because of poor building quality.

Who takes responsibility for the situation the Middle East finds itself in is a tough question to answer. But until someone does something about the standard of older buildings in the region, these incidents are going to keep on happening.

And all people will be able to do is hope that it is not their property up in flames when the breaking news flashes on their smart devices about another burning building.

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