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Amended UAE fire and life safety code announced

At the 2017 Intersec Expo event held in Dubai 22 to 24 January, the world’s largest trade show for security, fire protection and safety, the long-awaited amendments to the UAE Fire and Life Safety Code were formally announced.

The amendments were explained by Lieutenant Taher Hassan Al Taher, Head of Inspection and Permitting Section at Dubai Civil Defence, and were primarily concerned with improving the fire safety of cladding panels, especially those on existing towers and other buildings. He said that stricter regulations on cladding panels to ensure non-flammability is “as close to zero as possible”

The new specifications will guarantee the installation of only the safest cladding in new buildings, thus minimising the chances of fire spreading as ferociously as has been witnessed during recent incidents.

Lieutenant Al Taher continued: “We have put a lot of effort into the chapter on cladding, which we are confident will ensure the safest cladding in the world is being used. The new rules on cladding took us six months to finalise and the Code now contains more details on how the panels should be installed in an appropriate way”.

He added that existing towers and buildings will have to comply with the new cladding regulations when the buildings are due for maintenance. There is no deadline for this as it will depend from building to building and when their maintenance is due. An estimated 1,000 towers across the UAE are believed to be covered in older specification cladding panels.

Major General Expert Rashid Thani Al Matroushi, Director General Dubai Civil Defence.

Major General Expert Rashid Thani Al Matroushi, Director General Dubai Civil Defence.

Lieutenant Al Taher said that he did not know how much it will cost to retro-fit the structures but acknowledged that this is a big industry issue. A failure to comply with the new Code regulations will result in fines ranging from AED 500 to AED 50,000 for each violation. Civil Defence inspectors will be carrying out regular inspections in their respective areas to check that the buildings are complying with the new rules.

The much-awaited updated Code has been developed in conjunction with public and private sector stakeholders. New chapters have been added and existing chapters updated in order to cope with the rapid development in various economic sectors in the country. The new chapters include requirements for villas, fire alert and alarm systems of residential villas, and for boats moored in the marinas. The Code also covers the storage of flammable liquids and the use of renewable energy.

In addition, the Code has a chapter on the responsibilities of owners, contractors, consultants, engineers and community members, and notes that tenants also share the responsibility for fire prevention and safety.

Lieutenant Al Taher stated that whilst the previous UAE Fire Safety and Life Protection Code contained 707 pages, the new updated Code has 1,562 pages, embracing 20 chapters and 784 3D illustrations. These illustrations are designed to help engineers comply with the regulations and plan for safe buildings.

For more information, go to www.dcd.gov.ae

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Neil Wallington is a former British Chief Fire Officer, a Past International President of the Institution of Fire Engineers, and a holder of the Queen’s Commendation for Brave Conduct. He is the author of 17 books on the work of the fire service, and acts as a consultant with extensive experience in the Gulf on a range of projects.

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