Fire safety in Reem Island high-rise still cause for alarm, residents say

Residents say that the frequent sounds of the fire alarm in their Reem Island building have led to complacency when it comes to evacuation.

A number of tenants at the Oceanscape building, including Ahmed Simrin, have complained about the fire alarm. Christopher Pike / The National
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ABU DHABI // Faulty fire alarms at a Reem Island building have not been repaired despite residents’ complaints about frequent false alarms since last year.

Residents of Oceanscape building said the alarms still went off several times a week in the middle of the night, and their complaints – which The National reported last year – had not been resolved.

“It tends to happen on Saturday night when people need to sleep, and it can go off for up to 10 minutes at 2am or 3am,” said Mark Waters, a 28-year-old Irish construction manager.

“I had people visiting, and when I was at work, they had to walk down 23 flights of stairs to be told it was a fault in the system,” he said.“We’ve turned back halfway on many occasions when people have called reception. But now I just go to the balcony to look outside, and if I can’t see or smell smoke, I just go back to bed.”

Mr Waters said the faulty alarms had caused residents to become complacent.

“It’s a false alarm every time. There’s going to be an accident someday, and I’m leaving the building in August because of this. It’s a disaster,” he said.

He blamed the problem on a lack of extractor fans in the 32-floor building. “Maintenance aren’t allowed to do anything or go into your apartment without an official request and prepayment,” said Mr Waters.

“They wanted to cover our smoke detectors to stop the alarm from going off, but I wouldn’t allow it.”

The problem prompted one resident, 28-year-old Jordanian Ahmed Simrin, to survey 42 others. He found that 97.6 per cent of them were dissatisfied with the alarm system, while 85.7 per cent said they would not leave the building in the event that an alarm went off.

“Having a fire alarm system is meant to save lives,” said Mr Simrin. “But what is happening is the exact opposite because nobody is reacting, as they know it’s false. God forbid, if a real fire happens, a lot of lives will be lost and it’s very risky. If this doesn’t get fixed, I will move out, as a lot of people have already.”

The incident has seriously affected some residents, such as 32-year-old Syrian N O, who has a five-year-old autistic daughter.

“She can’t stand it if there is a loud noise, whether it’s two people arguing, loud television or even the mall,” said the medical assistant. “She puts her hands over her ears and starts crying. So you can imagine what happens in our home when this starts. It’s a nightmare and it happens all the time.”

Kacy Morgan, a 35-year-old English teacher, said her five-year-old son was no longer reacting to the loud noise. “He was terrified at first but now he doesn’t even move,” she said.

“It’s extremely aggravating that nothing’s been done and it’s desensitised everyone in the building.” Damac Properties, the building’s developer, said it had an impeccable safety record. “It is worth noting that our alarms are certified by Abu Dhabi Civil Defence (ADCF) and the local authorities,” it said.

“We will be liaising with the building’s residents to ensure they reduce the incidents of fumes from cooking and will be taking appropriate action shortly.” Luxury Owners Association Management Services, Damac’s facilities management arm, said the problem was due to the sensitivity of smoke sensors.

“Not all apartments have this problem, but we already appointed a consultant to get approval from the civil defence to replace this,” said assistant property manager Shelly Gaza.

“It will take time because it’s almost all of them, about 200 apartments. It’s a lot of work because you’re talking about deactivating them, which might have to be done in stages. It will all depend on the civil defence’s recommendations and consultants are still working on it.”

Ms Gaza said her company was preparing to submit the required documents to ADCF to file the claim, and it would be completed by the end of the year.