DUBAI, Jan 22, (Agencies): Dubai on Sunday announced tougher fire rules in a bid to minimise risks after several spectacular blazes that have ripped through skyscrapers in the modern Gulf emirate. Major fires have hit Dubai high-rises in recent years and spread quickly, mostly due to flammable material used in cladding, a covering or coating used on the side of the buildings. Civil Defence Lieutenant Taher Hassan al-Taher announced the new regulations at a security exhibition during which authorities also launched Dubai’s new fire and safety code for the emirate.
According to Taher builders must abide by a new requirement to ensure that the flammability of the cladding is as close to zero as possible. “There is a requirement to minimise it to zero,” Taher said. Builders will also have to regularly carry out maintenance on the cladding panels and replace them after a certain date, he added. “There is a timeline for all cladding (and) there is maintainance for everything. By that time they’ll have to change it,” Taher said, speaking in English.
Those who violate the rules will face fines up to 50,000 dirhams ($13,623), he added. Dubai is home to Burj al- Khalifa, the world’s tallest tower. The modern city state has experienced a real estate boom over the years with hundreds of skyscrapers built in a short lapse of time with many tiled with flammable cladding. Most towers built before 2012 have reportedly used non-firerated exterior panels. Fires have hit several high-rise buildings in the Dubai, famed for its record-breaking skyscrapers. On New Year’s Eve 2015 a huge blaze ripped through the luxury Address Downtown Hotel, injuring 16 people just a few hours before a spectacular fireworks display nearby.
The blaze was broadcast live worldwide, but authorities went ahead with the festivities despite the inferno, with residents and tourists gathered nearby to watch a dazzling fireworks display even as smoke billowed out of the tower.
The fire sparked panic as the fire spread along the facade of the Address Downtown hotel but only 16 people were injured. The United Arab Emirates has “proven to have the lowest number of fire casualties,” said Sajid Raza, a member of the UAE Fire Code Council, putting the rate at 0.23 person per every 10,000 people. The UAE’s rate of fire casualties is “much lower than many advanced countries,” he told a conference at the same exhibition. Taher said the low number of fire casualties is due to awareness campaigns and fire drills that are conducted at schools, hotels and residential buildings regularly. Electric short circuits have been behind most of Dubai’s fires, according to Dubai Civil Defence chief Major General Rashid al-Matrooshi. “More than 70 percent of fires in building are caused by electricity,” he said.
Dubai is looking into introducing Nanotechnology that could put out the fire instantly, he said. “To avoid using large fire extinguishers, a (nanotechnology) piece that is 2 centimetres by 2 centimetres can be used to fight the cause of the fire,” he told the same forum. He said Dubai is hoping to start production of such devices in the first quarter of this year. These micro-extinguishers reportedly release fire extinguishing gas as soon as the temperature reaches a certain level.