As the end of the second decade of the 21st century draws to a close, the challenges in the Gulf region to provide the highest level of building fire safety and protection never lessens with the approach of bigger and more complex capital projects.
Indeed, the Gulf states increasingly host ever-growing major international events, both cultural and sporting, which provide challenges in terms of public security, including fire safety and protection.
One of the biggest forthcoming such Gulf events is the 2022 Football World Cup being staged in Qatar. Ever since this was awarded to Qatar in 2010 construction and planning is at an advanced stage. This global competition and the millions in its worldwide audience will bring an unprecedented focus to Qatar during the month-long competition. The Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy is the Qatari government body with overall responsibility for the 2022 World Cup.
The statistics involved in staging the World Cup are truly staggering. There are eight new football stadia under construction together with training pitches embracing 140,000 seats and 2.5 million square yards of pitches, costing an estimated US$ 2.7 billion.
Linking all seven Qatari host cities will be a new US$ 15 billion rail development with 37 stations, whilst a new US$ 824 million Mega Mall in the capital Doha is a significant central flagship project.
Gulf Fire will be reporting on the fire safety and protection features of the new World Cup 2022 infrastructure in future editions of the magazine.
Another large forthcoming global gathering in the Gulf now coming closer timewise is World EXPO 2020, to be held in Dubai between 20 October 2020 and 10 April 2021. The site will cover a total of 438 hectares located in Dubai South district, near the Al Maktoum International Airport.
World EXPO events are overseen and regulated by the Bureau International des Expositions (BIE) which was founded in 1931 and the BIE Member States elected the UAE as the host of EXPO 2020 during the General Assembly of 27 November 2013.
This is the very first time that World EXPO has been awarded to a Middle East country. EXPO 2020 Dubai is being organised under the theme ‘Connecting Minds and Creating the Future’. It is estimated that over the six months of the show, the EXPO 2020 Dubai could see a staggering attendance of some 25 million visitors to what will be a global shop window of innovation and technology.
Many of the latest Fire Protection and Safety measures, together with Firefighting Technology, Strategies and Tactics will feature during EXPO Dubai and more advance details will appear in future editions of Gulf Fire. More details can be found at www.expo2020dubai.ae/
The Public Inquiry into the Grenfell Tower Fire in London, 14 June 2017
Readers will not forget the catastrophic fire at Grenfell Tower in West London on the night of 14 June 2017 that took the lives of 72 men, women and children.
The aggressive spread of flames accelerated by flammable external cladding panels on the Grenfell tower block was probably unprecedented in its speed as it rapidly involved all 24 floors to develop into one of the worst fire tragedies in modern British history,
Since then I have reported on the independent public enquiry into the disaster which was set up on 15 August 2017 and first sat on 21 May 2018 taking evidence for some 128 days, closing its Phase 1 on 12 December 2018. The local council, the tower’s tenant management organisation, the police and the London Fire Brigade were all quizzed during the Inquiry’s first Phase.
During Phase 1, the Inquiry appointed a number of leading experts in the field of forensic fire investigation and fire engineering. Analysis of evidence involved some 200,000 documents.
Advice from the team of experts was that understanding the conditions within Grenfell Tower, including the generation and movement of fire and smoke, was of paramount importance. To enable the experts to reach firm conclusions, they sought evidence of conditions at different levels within the building as the fire and smoke developed, as well as evidence of the development of flames on the outside of the building.
Obtaining accounts from both the former residents of Grenfell Tower and from the firefighters who responded was key to this. About 225 residents managed to escape from the tower, and approximately 260 firefighters attended the fire. The Inquiry interviewed 500 witnesses, together with other people. This means that, in many instances, the police needed to take statements from potential witnesses before statements could be taken for the Inquiry. This was to ensure that the integrity of the evidence given to the police could not be called into question at any future criminal trial.
The Inquiry Chairman is currently drafting his Report on Phase 1, publication of which is due to be in October 2019. Phase 2 of the Inquiry will focus on the remainder of the list of issues and hearings, and is expected to begin in early 2020, following which the final Report will be written and subsequently published.
Those who lost loved ones in the inferno, survivors and Grenfell campaigners, who expected the Phase 1 Report to be published in early 2019, said the delay was “disgraceful”. Apparently, the First Phase Report has proved to be “far more complex and time-consuming” than anticipated.
Clearly, the Grenfell Inquiry will be a very thorough and searching event. I predict that its final conclusions and recommendations will have a very profound impact of matters of fire safety and prevention, not just in tall towers in the United Kingdom, but across the Gulf region, and elsewhere around the world.