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Intersec Expo 2017 and the growth of Gulf Fire Safety

The 2017 Intersec Expo event held at the Dubai International Convention and Exhibition back in January once again illustrated just how this annual show has, year on year, grown to become a vibrant global gathering in every sense of the word and, in so doing, truly reflects the influence of the Gulf region in fire and safety matters.

Intersec is held under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mansoor bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, and supported by Dubai Civil Defence, Dubai Police, and the Dubai Police Academy.

Intersec 2017 concluded on its last day by setting a new record in exhibitor and visitor participation ensuring the three-day event concluded its proceedings on an all-time high. According to organiser Messe Frankfurt Middle East, Intersec 2017 attracted 33,501 visitors from 129 countries, as they sourced solutions and networked with 1,304 exhibitors from 58 countries spanning 56,300sqm of exhibition space.

With 83 per cent of exhibitors based outside the UAE, Intersec’s international participation was spearheaded by a 10 per cent year-on-year increase in exhibitors from Germany and the UK, with 82 German companies (64 pavilion and 18 stand-alone exhibitors) lined-up alongside 143 British companies (86 pavilion and 57 stand-alone exhibitors).

Amongst significant features at Intersec 2017 were a staggering 150 global product launches, live demonstrations, and new bilateral agreements. However, the most important announcement was that of the long-awaited Amendments to the UAE Fire Protection and Life Safety Code.

Since the string of tall tower and other serious fires in the Gulf in recent years, there has been a concerted drive by Civil Defence to amend the Code to take account of the use of non-fire rated products during the years of the construction boom.

On the first day of the Intersec Fire Safety Conference, His Excellency Major General Expert Rashid Thani Al Matrooshi, FIFireE, Director General of the Dubai Civil Defence, announced the Amended Code.

The primary detail of the Amended Code was outlined by Lieutenant Al Taher Hassan Al Taher, Head of Inspection and Permitting Section at Dubai Civil Defence. He said that it was primarily concerned with improving the fire safety of cladding panels, especially those on existing tall towers and other buildings. Lt. Al Taher said that stricter regulations on cladding panels are 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.

Lt. Al Taher 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.

The new chapters of the Code also include requirements for fire alert and alarm systems of residential villas, boats moored in the marinas, 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.

Some of the new technology being launched at Intersec 2017 underlined the ingenuity and thought behind new solutions to the age – old dangers of fire. Examples of active and passive fire protection through to a range of new equipment for front line firefighters and their safety abounded across the floors of the show.

The quite staggering growth of the Fire element of Intersec Expo since its inception 19 years ago is well demonstrated by recent figures showing the upward trend in the value of new fire safety systems in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region.

According to consultancy firm 6Wresearch, in 2015 the total GCC fire safety market was worth US$ 1.36 billion. Saudi Arabia and the UAE lead the way as stringent government regulations fuel a demand for the replacement of existing and outdated equipment.

Saudi Arabia at US$ 598 million, and the UAE at US$ 394 million comprised 73% of the regional marketplace. The other Gulf States of Qatar, Bahrain, Oman and Kuwait collectively accounted for US$ 367 million.

Oil and Gas expenditure is a key sector in this growth. When operating in hazardous environments, safety systems must be robust and reliable, both offshore and onshore, and in refineries and gas processing plants. Safety expenditure in the overall Middle East oil and gas sector is predicted to rise by 19% during the five year period ending 2017.

Other factors driving the growing regional demand for new fire safety products include various government schemes, the transportation sector especially new railways, residential, retail, hospitals and medical care developments, together with new tourist attractions.

Two significant future events – Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 and the upcoming Dubai Expo 2020 in the UAE are also very likely to boost the further growth in safety schemes. Gulf Fire will continue on its regular pages to report upon and feature aspects of the growth of the Middle East fire protection market.

Finally, it was a great pleasure to meet many of our advertisers and readers during the often hectic hours of Intersec 2017 and the Gulf Fire team look forward to meeting you again at Intersec on 21 to 23 January 2018.

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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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