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Dubai Municipality's Buildings' Department has issued a circular prohibiting engineering, contracting, manufacturing and real estate development firms from using flammable substances and any system that hinders the ability of materials to resist fire. All items mentioned in the circular are integral parts of the approved standards of the Civil Defence Department, which are considered the basic reference for everything related to security, safety, prevention and fire resistance.
According to the circular, ''The decision enforces the conditions and specifications set for thermal insulation in buildings under Administrative Decision No.66 for the year 2003, the provisions of Circular No.132 for the year 2005 on obtaining certificates and marks of conformity for materials and products used in thermal insulation systems, as well as Circular No. 186 for the year 2012's guidelines on the use of incombustible materials in construction works.''
Khalid Mohammed Saleh, Director of the Buildings Department, said the materials involved include those used for thermal insulation such as rock wool, polystyrene and bitumen, as well as flammable installation materials that are allowed only when their fire retardant rates are within those approved by the Dubai Civil Defence Fire Code or the US Fire Code (NPFA5000).
Labelled materials should prevent walls from catching fire and façade cladding systems should conform with the standards in the code.
''The flame extension rates and smoke production for internal and external cladding materials and paint products should be around below 25 and below 450, according to flame spreading and smoke-evolution standards and the criteria adopted in Civil Defence codes,'' the circular states.
Additionally, the use of any flammable materials such as paints, packaging materials, adhesives, fixtures used inside buildings and hanging ceilings, which have ignition resistance rates less than that of the wall resistance, is also prohibited.
The Municipality has advised that buildings be divided into sections such as floors, residential units, office units and trade or industrial units, each with specifications for fire safety. ''Fire resistant barriers should prevent the spread of fire and smoke and should be continuous; they should cover all penetration and contact points between fire resistant sections at their vertical and horizontal directions, such as sides of walls, ceilings, floors, windows, doors and holes,'' the circular states.
The circular also addresses the hidden gap above hanging ceilings. ''Separating walls between fire resistant sections shall extend from the floor's concrete ground slab to the next floor's concrete ground slab, as each hidden space in the building and each façade cladding system is a contributing factor to the spread of fire and smoke,'' it states.
Gaps should be divided with bars to prevent the spread of fire and smoke at each penetration and contact point between the building's sections at both vertical and horizontal directions. The distance between two windows in two fire-resistant sections should not be less than 1.2m at the vertical and horizontal directions.
Fire safety for all
Fire safety requires all stakeholders to work together. Residents and building management contribute to fire safety by following key processes for prevention, preparation and response.
To tackle fires and prevent them from spreading, landlords and tenants should ensure that there are fire extinguishers in kitchens and all service rooms. However, the first priority for residents is to get to safely because fire grows and spreads rapidly.
Using a fire extinguisher is a four-step ''Pass'' process:
P: Pull the pin on the extinguisher. Release the lock after ensuring the nozzle points away from you.
A: Aim low, pointing at the base of the fire.
S: Squeeze the lever softly and evenly.
S: Sweep the nozzle from side to side.
Staying low under the smoke is a good advice when escaping from fire. If there are no exit points, gather in a room with a window to await the arrival of firefighters.
Try to keep windows open for fresh air, but watch out for smoke from outside the building. If you're stuck, make an effort to let firefighters know your exact location over the phone or by waving a light-coloured cloth.
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Source: Shalini Seth, Special to Property Weekly