Dubai Torch blaze: Sounding the alarm on fire safety

The fire that swept through The Torch Tower in the early hours of a February morning was a stark reminder of how much more needs to be done when it comes to fire safety in the region. While there have been tremendous advancements in terms of the fire and life safety systems being installed in buildings, there are still gaping holes in the way we look at fire safety.

During a conversation with Matt Kitson, regional director of Hilson Moran Qatar, he mentioned something that I thought was hugely overlooked when we discuss fire safety. While local civil defence forces check on sprinkler systems and egress routes, Kitson points out that that same thoroughness isn’t applied to the building materials used on-site.

He calls on government authorities to do more to police the installation of materials on-site, on every job. Given that we’re talking about people’s lives here, I can only agree with him. As a city, we’ve been incredibly lucky with the last two major fires – both Tamweel and The Torch Tower could have been far worse than they were. It’s perhaps a testament to the quality of the systems in place that they weren’t. But, as Kitson emphatically states, “That façade should not have burnt. Period. Something has gone fundamentally wrong there.”

Perhaps it’s time for a government task force to be created to ensure that regulations and testing are carried out on-site and that the materials used are up to the standards that they say they are certified to.

Of course, this will be difficult to implement and will consume a lot of resources and manpower, but when the alternative is millions of dollars in damage and a potential catastrophe in terms of human life, I think it’s a cost worth bearing.

Qatar has already learnt this brutally harsh lesson and has implemented some of the most stringent fire safety measures in the region. Do we in the UAE really need to have something as awful as that happen before we do the same?

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