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Lessons to learn from London tower fire, says UAE expert

Building owners must work to prevent a tragedy similar to London's Grenfell Tower fire from occurring in the UAE, according to JPW Consulting Group's Gary Walton

At least 30 people lost their lives in London's Grenfell Tower fire [image: Getty].
At least 30 people lost their lives in London's Grenfell Tower fire [image: Getty].

London's blaze-stricken Grenfell Tower did not have a proper system for fire containment, according to Gary Walton, managing director of UAE-based JPW Consulting Group.

Talking to MEP Middle East about possible reasons behind the rapid spread of the fire, which occurred on 14 June, 2017, Walton said: "The building was clearly not sprinklered, the external cladding was not non-combustible, the fire detection and alarm system did not appear to work, fire compartmentation and separation did not work, and the fire escape routes were inadequate and not fire- or smoke-protected."

The UK's former Minister of State for Housing and Planning, Gavin Barwell, faced criticism following the publication of a report in The Independent, which claimed that he had delayed a fire safety review and shelved a tower block-related fire safety report for four years.

In the wake of last week's blaze, fire safety experts have also criticised Grenfell Tower's external cladding, saying that it "worked like a chimney in spreading the fire". 

Such issues remain significant focusses within the UAE's built environment, following high-profile blazes such as the Torch Tower fire in 2015 and The Address Downtown Dubai hotel fire on New Year's Eve 2015.

Walton told MEP that building owners in the Emirates must ensure that they fully comply with the country's latest fire and life safety codes, adding: "The correct codes are mandatory here in the UAE. However, there is [little] policing of buildings during construction or during subsequent operations."

Walton also claimed that London's Grenfell Tower fire could have been avoided if legislation had required the use of predominantly fireproof materials, and if certification for fire-stopping and fire compartmentation had been enforced."

Walton has extensive practical experience in the design and implementation of critical environment systems, in conjunction with electronic control and data acquisition (BMS, iBMS, CAFM, fire detection and security). He was one of the participants at a roundtable recently hosted by MEP Middle East, where industry experts debated the UAE Fire and Life Safety code.

Fifty-eight people are presumed to have lost their lives in the 24-storey Grenfell Tower fire. At the time of writing, 30 fatalities have been confirmed as rescue teams continue to search for the missing.

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