About 60,000 villas can be fitted with fire detection systems connected directly to Civil Defence control rooms in Dubai, three times more than originally planned, with installations starting next month.
The decision came after the deaths of seven Emirati children in Fujairah on Monday who asphyxiated when a fire broke out at the family's villa as they slept.
The initial plan for this year was to connect 20,000 villas with alarms that would report an emergency so both the occupants and fire fighting teams would be immediately alerted, said Col Ali Al Mutawa, assistant general manager smart services for Civil Defence.
Following the tragic fire, the UAE Vice President and Dubai Ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid requested all Emirati homes to be linked to civil defence stations; however, Col Mutawa said both expatriate and Emirati villas would be fitted with the 24/7 Life Safety Dashboard starting from next month.
In Dubai, some 68,000 commercial buildings are already connected to emergency fire teams. But there are 90,000 private villas in the emirate, according to statistics available with the department.
“We will announce details within one week about how villas can register, whether it is online or through customer centres. We will start installations a month from now,” Col Mutawa said.
“Most villa fire deaths are caused by toxic gases. The fire eats the oxygen and pushes carbon monoxide levels higher. People are asleep and they are not aware that they are inhaling carbon monoxide.
“This system will help announce there is a problem because the smoke detectors are so sensitive they will sense gas and smoke before people in the house know there is a problem.”
There could be between seven to 10 smoke detectors fitted in each villa depending on the size of a home. Detectors would be placed in the kitchen, dining and bedroom areas.
“The most important issue for our engineers is to discover the risk very soon and evacuate the villa. When the risk starts it is very small and it can still be controlled so time is a big factor,” Col Mutawa said.
Fitting out villas with the alarm connectivity would be simpler than installation in commercial buildings; however, consistently updating information about the occupants was required for the residential system to work, experts said.
“This is a great and needed initiative, but it needs to be managed and updated regularly with new information and contacts in case the occupants change,” said Douglas Ralph, chief executive of Snap & Inspect, a property inspection company that inspects buildings and individual homes.
“There should also be discussions with family members about what to do and where to meet so you know that everybody got out okay. These are little things, but important so especially children understand and don’t panic because they have been trained.”
A countrywide plan was also announced last year by the Ministry of Interior to link homes with Hasantak, an integrated alarm system to be linked to a central centre that would receive information about a blaze in any emirate as part of the monitoring of emergencies.
The Ministry said this would involve cameras linked to fire safety systems to alert the federal control room. No further details are yet available on this.