Doha Mall tragedy could happen in Dubai

Insurance methodologies and developer hand-overs put lives at risk, says Martin Gregory

Doha’s Villagio Mall fire tragedy, which killed 19 people last week, could happen in Dubai because of improper handover procedures by developers and a lack of inspections on public and private buildings by insurers.

Calling for a government lobby of the insurance industries of the UAE and wider GCC, Facility Masters Overseas (FMO) managing director Martin Gregory says an interbody lobby is needed to change current practices.

“People are handing over AED500m properties and they don’t get owners’ manuals. Then everybody pays an insurance premium linked to the capital cost of a building and there is no cost incentive to introduce life safety measures,” Gregory told The Big Project.

“Buildings in other markets that enjoy cheaper insurance premiums because they have these measures in place, are inspected annually as a result. But it could be solved if the insurance industry got their act together,” he added, adding the regional insurance industry is immature.

The Villagio Mall fire on May 28 has resulted in five arrests, with warrants issued for the arrests of the deputy director of mall security and the owner of the Gympanzee nursery, where 13 children and four teachers died.

Within days of the tragedy, national and international pointed fingers at the mall’s owners and management, accusing them of negligence and a lack of adequate fire safety systems.

“The handover of some buildings is really bad and developers don’t take the responsibility of handovers seriously enough. One of the issues is that with the Joint Owned Property law and Strata law, they think that it’s no longer their problem. There needs to be more guidance from local authorities on the standards of handover documentation and the standards of inspection,” Gregory continued.

Sharing his experience of a high-rise project in Dubai that had inadequate alarms, no sprinkler system, reduced ladder access from the outside and short fire hose reels, Gregory also says that FM

“People don’t die in fires because of one thing going wrong, it’s a chain of things going wrong,” he said

“The problem is that in some cases, in some buildings, it only takes one thing to go wrong because the other four of five errors have been designed into the building. For example, fire alarms that don’t go off properly or an alarm system on a single zone so nobody knows where the fire is,” he added.

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