Tips on preventing fires at home and in the workplace

Tips on preventing fires at home and in the workplaceImage Credit: Supplied

In a matter of minutes, the house you bought with your hard-earned money, or the factory you set up after taking a loan can go up in smoke.

Barry Bell , Managing Director of Wagner Fire Safety Management Consultants, talks about the main causes of fire, precautions one must take to prevent it and the standard firefighting equipment and legislation in the UAE.

Basic things one should look out for

Residential fires are often caused by the activities of the resident, accidental for sure, but usually due to a lack of understanding of good safety practices at home.

Fires in commercial kitchens are often the result of soiled extract ducts.

Office fires often have their origin in electrical equipment faults.

If a resident has doubts about his new home, he must call on a specialist building fire inspector (fire engineering consultant, usually listed with the fire department) and get some expert advice.

Some basic things that everyone should look out for include:

In a high-rise building:

* Is there an evacuation guideline for the tenant?
* Is the fire alarm control panel in working condition? If it is showing multiple yellow/red lights, it might not be.
* How is a fire emergency announced in the building, and what are the procedures for tenants?
* Are all emergency contact numbers highlighted somewhere clearly visible to tenants?
* Are the escape stairs free of all obstructions?
* Are the security staff aware of fire alarm procedures? Ask them.

In a villa (single-family dwelling):

* Is there an exit to the ground floor from the upper floor?
* Is there an exit to an upper floor balcony/terrace facing the access road?
* Are there at least two exits from the ground floor to a safe place?
* Is there a smoke detector at the top of the stairs or in the vicinity of the bedrooms?
* How close is your neighbor? Will someone hear you if you are calling for help?

The above list is not finite, but it might be useful to the layman.

Seeking professional assistance is still the recommended approach.

Fire protection equipment

Mandatory fire protection equipment is usually already installed in buildings or villas in compliance with government regulations.

But if a tenant is unsure about a building’s fire protection system, he must ask for help before signing a lease agreement.

In any event, a resident should seek professional advice before purchasing anything that is related to fire and life safety, unless that person has fundamental knowledge of the product and its intended application.

It is essential that fire safety equipment is regularly tested and maintained by competent and approved service providers.

The current governing standards for electrical and mechanical systems in buildings in the UAE are at par with international standards.

This ensures that installations meet the highest level of safety and are tested rigorously before building occupation. This is an important part of fire prevention.

But fire incidents are not always related to the building design or the utility installations.

For this reason, there have been significant changes in fire detection, fire notification and fire suppression systems in buildings over the past decade.


This may not be the answer to check incidents of fires.

It is difficult to impose restrictions that would completely eliminate fire risks on residents. Residents themselves can play an active part in fire prevention.

Facility management could play a bigger role, encouraging residents to take part in fire prevention and awareness activities.

Both facility management and residents alike can seek advice from the authorities as well as specialist fire engineering companies in the city.

Fires in industrial establishments

* Industrial facilities often face inherently higher risks due to the nature of their operations.

* There is no common denominator in the cause of industrial fires but any industrial facility would increase the risk of fire if preventive maintenance was ignored, safety policies were not actively practiced and good housekeeping is not enforced.

* There is a greater interest among companies to achieve “zero incident.” The safety awareness among companies in a wide range of disciplines is very apparent. This is a result of campaigns delivered by the country’s authorities and often driven further by responsible individuals.

Source: S. Dhar, Special to Freehold


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