Smoke detectors urgently needed to cut UAE fire deaths, safety experts say

A series of fire tragedies have put the spotlight on home safety


Aftermath of the fire at Al Saaedi's house. 

The family said the blaze broke out on the top floor of a two-storey property belonging to the pair's grandparents at about 10.30am on Monday.

The siblings - Hor Al-Saeedi, the youngest, and her brother Fahad - were alone in their bedroom on the first floor when the fire took hold.

Their aunt and her son rushed upstairs in an effort to save them but were unable to open the bedroom door. Both children could be heard inside calling for help.

“I can’t believe that my small children are dead, they shouldn’t have been left alone in the room,” Mr Al Saeedi told The National.

Photo by Reem Mohammed/The National)

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Tenants and landlords need to ensure they have smoke detectors installed to prevent further fire deaths, fire safety experts have said.

A nationwide law requiring their installation was introduced last year. However, there remains confusion over who is responsible for the installation of smoke detectors and fire alarms in new properties, as well as the retrofitting of older buildings.

Industry experts said tenants and property owners need to work together to address the issue.

A recent spate of fire tragedies have placed the spotlight on how well safeguarded residential buildings and villas are.

On Sunday an eight-month-old girl died in a fire in a villa in Dubai's Barsha district, and on Wednesday eight people were pulled from a blazing building in Ajman. The emirate's fire chief urged homeowners to ensure they have alarm devices fitted.

I wouldn't think twice about popping out to buy some smoke detectors to install them around my home

“It is absolutely vital to have the right tools to alert you, especially when you are sleeping,” said Andy Dean, head of facades at engineering firm WSP.

“It’s usually easy enough to install it yourself and in most cases the buildings can be retrofitted quite easily too.”

He said the most important factor is that a home is safe, regardless of who is responsible for installing the equipment.

“I know if it was me, living in a house or apartment with my family, I wouldn’t think twice about popping out to buy some smoke detectors to install them around my home,” he said.

In total, 23 people died and sustained injuries in the past 11 months, the Arabic language newspaper Emarat Al Youm reported this week, citing police reports from across the emirates. The authorities did not confirm nor comment on the figures.

Another expert said that all stakeholders from property developers, landlords, tenants and homeowners had a moral obligation towards ensuring people’s safety.

“It’s as much the responsibility of the tenants to make sure the right system is in place, they should go to the landlord and tell them it needs to be upgraded if necessary,” said Emma Button, managing partner with the real estate firm the Consultancy Hub.

“Developers should also be sensitive to the concerns of the people who are buying the homes.”

Residents from one Dubai community said there were no alarms in their buildings because they were designed before the new law came in.

That was despite the fact owners only took possession of the property this month.

“I was shocked to discover there was no fire alarm system in place,” said Sundip Chahal, 43, from the UK, who had just moved into his new home in Dubai Hills with his family.

“I thought this couldn’t be right as the law quite clearly states that new villas have to be equipped with fire alarm systems.”

Property developers Emaar said the villas were compliant with the applicable fire safety laws at time of design.

“A new law mandates fire alarms, which are considered in our upcoming projects,” said a spokesman.

“We are committed to ensuring the safety and security of all our residents, and take all due diligence regarding fire safety in our projects.”