During April last I had the privilege of attending the 7th Annual Fire Safety Technology Forum UAE in Dubai. Like other fire-related gatherings in the Gulf States, this is an event that has steadily grown in both technical content and enjoyed an increasing high level of delegate and visitor attendance.
Gulf Fire magazine along with sister journal International Fire Protection were the fire sector media partners for the Forum with copies circulated to all delegates and visitors. A summary of the annual Forum appears on page 8 of this edition.
A much larger and older annual gathering that continues to break all records is Intersec, which in January 2018 in Dubai will stage its 20th edition. Intersec has become the largest such event in the Middle East and is now one of the world’s top fire, security and safety gatherings. The 2017 edition of Intersec featured a record-breaking 1,304 exhibitors and welcomed 33,212 visitors from 128 countries which made it the largest and most international Intersec of all times.
Some of the highlighted features of Intersec 2018 will include Smart Homes; Safety Design in Buildings; an outside display area including demonstrations of Drones and their use at emergency incidents; and a Job Pavilion. Intersec 2018 will be held on January 21st – 23rd, and will once again be staged under the patronage of HH Sheikh Mansoor bin Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum.
The predicted GCC spend on fire safety technology and related protection equipment is put at around US$ 1.2 billion with an estimated annual growth of some 14%. Events such as the annual Intersec Expo and the Fire Safety Forum provide important showcases for the innovative technology coming onto the market to protect life and property across the region.
Another even larger forthcoming gathering in the diary is World Expo 2020, to be held in Dubai between 20th October 2020 and 10th April 2021. The Expo 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 has organised global Expo’s since then. BIE Member States elected the UAE as the host of Expo 2020 during the General Assembly of 27th November 2013, and Expo 2020 Dubai was formally registered at the General Assembly of 25th November 2015.
This is the 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 Expo Dubai 2020 could see a staggering attendance over the six months of the show of some 25 million visitors to what will be a global shop window of innovation and technology. More details can be found at www.Expo2020dubai.ae/
Earlier this year, tough new fire safety regulations were embodied in the amended UAE Fire Safety and Life Protection Code which came into force across the United Arab Emirates in response to a series of serious fires in high-rise towers in the Emirates over the past few years.
The new Code targets the exterior cladding panels that have been blamed for the rapid spread of many high-rise tower fires and were primarily concerned with improving the fire safety of cladding panels, especially those on existing towers and other buildings. The stricter regulations on cladding panels is aimed to ensure that non-flammability is “as close to zero as possible”
These new specifications will guarantee the installation of only the safest non-flammable cladding in new buildings, thus minimising the chances of fire spreading as ferociously as has been witnessed during recent incidents.
The amended UAE Fire Safety and Life Protection Code contains a requirement to minimise the risk to zero in high-rise towers, even old buildings which will have to meet the new code when it is time for their maintenance. The amended Code specifies procedures for the installation of fire-rated cladding and contains detailed guidelines and responsibilities for consultants, contractors, and manufacturers.
Dubai Civil Defence have stated that a lot of effort went into the chapter in the Code on cladding, and there was confidence to ensure the safest cladding in the world. The new rules on cladding took six months to finalise and the Code now contains more details on how the panels should be installed in an appropriate way. There is no deadline for this in the Code 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, and 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 increasing number of recent fires in high-rise towers brought about a number of additional physical challenges for Civil Defence firefighting and rescue crews, created complexity during firefighting and rescue operations, together with the demands of incident command and control.
As a former British firefighter, I have nothing but high admiration for the manner that UAE fire crews have successfully tackled previous serious fires in high-rise towers. Let us hope that the progressive application of the amended UAE Fire Safety and Life Protection Code, together with the application of new and innovative technology will reduce future fire outbreaks and the subsequent risks to the public and firefighters alike.