Expert calls on FM companies to revamp approach to Fire and Life Safety

Garald Todd says that FM firms need to conduct thorough assessments of the facilities they are maintaining, so as to understand what they have to work with

A leading regional expert has called on the region’s facilities management companies to revamp the way they approach the maintenance of fire and life safety systems in large public spaces, following a spate of recent outbreaks that have cost lives and millions in property damage.

In an interview with The Big Project ME, Garald Todd, head of Fire & Life Safety, WSP Middle East, said that while the UAE’s Fire and Life Safety Code of Practice was a positive step in the right direction, FM companies needed to conduct a thorough assessment of the facility they are maintaining so as to ensure that they understand what they have to work with.

“Regardless of how old a facility is, we recommend that a complete assessment is done on the existing design and installation to assess if there are any legacy issues with the system present. As the quality of design and installation throughout the region has been varied, it’s important to understand what the FM team actually has first and foremost,” Todd explained.

“We’ve seen systems that have been ‘maintained’ by companies who check these systems, but merely as an operational test,” he added, “These (tests) do no actually ensure the system will operate as intended.”

Two of the main areas of concern are the competency of the contractors installing equipment and the appropriate maintenance of the systems, Todd said.

“(As such), it’s a matter of education. We work very closely with civil defence and contractors in raising awareness for the need of inspections throughout the construction process and ensuring competent qualified third party are involved in witnessing the testing and commissioning to ensure the intent of the strategy and system installations is maintained.”

However, he pointed out that the GCC region was very active in promoting fire and life safety education across all levels, with civil defences committed to continuously learning, growing and maturing from disasters such the recent Villaggio Mall fire.

“Unfortunately, awareness and education spikes after a tragedy like we’ve had with the Villaggio fire, in the industry, this is known as disaster led,” he said.

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