Tough new laws urged to assist UAE firefighters

Poor fire-regulation and building laws are thwarting the efforts of civil defence teams to respond more quickly to emergencies, says the acting commander of Civil Defence.

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ABU DHABI // Poor fire-regulation and building laws are thwarting the efforts of civil-defence teams to respond more quickly to emergencies.

The acting commander of Civil Defence has called for improved building standards, better infrastructure and tougher laws to boost safety and improve emergency preparedness.

Maj Gen Rashed Al Matroushi said all buildings should be equipped with an information point, where emergency officials could swiftly check safety standards and the location of alarms.

“The laws are poor and standards are not up to the mark,” he told a crisis management conference in the capital.

“There should be building standards where if an engineer wants to check the standards for a tower, building or a hotel there will be one point.

“The Government asked us to improve response times. We studied the laws about building and fire safety, which need to be further upgraded.

“I believe in the coming five years our response times will be reduced and services for the country will be available round the clock.”

Gen Al Matroushi said all private and Government companies and entities were required to have 10 per cent of their staff trained in how to prepare for and respond to an emergency.

The plan is to increase this figure to 30 per cent in the next five years, but at the moment some companies do not even comply with the 10-per-cent requirement, Gen Al Matroushi said.

About 6,000 staff work for Civil Defence in the UAE, serving a population of more than seven million, of about 210 nationalities. This brought about its own challenges and the language barrier between emergency crews and people was sometimes a problem, Gen Al Matroushi said.

The conference also heard from the Minister of Energy, Suhail Al Mazrouei, who said the media and the Government could work together to tackle any emergency situation.

The UAE has many vital energy infrastructure sites in oil, gas and now nuclear energy.

Mr Al Mazrouei said the media had a role to report disasters, such as the Fukushima nuclear incident in Japan, and the reporting of measures taken to improve safety was very important.

“Every crisis is different from country to country. Then preventive measures are followed to avoid an occurrence. For example, the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan in 2011,” he said.

The minister said the UAE’s nuclear plants would start operating by 2017 and safety was paramount.

“It’s very important to put proper emphasis on the challenges relating to it, like this conference, and we hope to reach the best solutions,” he said.

The conference was also addressed by Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak, Minister of Youth, Culture and Community Development, who emphasised that because society was so diverse, coordination between emergency services was crucial.

“Disasters and emergency crises in this modern period are wide and varied due to a rapidly expanding and diverse society,” he said.

“Earthquakes, floods, tropical cyclones, climatic changes, war, terrorist attacks and criminal activities are prevalent today. Therefore, the requirements to address them are also challenging.”

Sheikh Nahyan stressed the importance of building cooperation among all ministries and all sectors to provide awareness and training, as well as research on how to tackle emergencies.

“The responsibility lies on all in society – individuals, regional, public and private sectors – to hold dialogues in the society to build a real partnership.”

anwar@thenational.ae