Editor, IFSEC Global

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Adam Bannister was Editor of IFSEC Global from 2014 through to November 2019. Adam is also a former Managing Editor at Dynamis Online Media Group.
January 7, 2016

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Fatalities Will Happen “Sooner or Later” Warns Fire Safety Expert After Dubai Blaze Resurrects Fears Over Flammable Cladding

Dubai fire hotelThe fire that engulfed a 63-story Dubai hotel on New Years Eve is a harbinger of fatalities to come, a leading fire safety expert has warned.

The fire, which rapidly engulfed ‘The Address’ hotel’s exterior shortly before midnight, is the third such blaze in as many years, resurrecting fears about the prevalence of highly combustible materials among skyscrapers across the UAE.

Sixteen people suffered minor injuries in the latest blaze and although there were no fatalities, a fire safety consultant with Gloucester-based CWB Fire Safety has warned that “there will be fatalities sooner or later”.

Speaking to the Daily Telegraph Phil Barry estimated that up to 70% of Dubai’s high-rise buildings could be clad in polyurethane and aluminium composite cladding – a highly flammable material used routinely during Dubai’s building boom. The material was only outlawed in the Emirate in 2013.

“The basic rule is that the outside of any building over 30 metres – which is as high as any fire-truck ladder can reach – must be made of non-combustible materials because you cannot fight the fire,” he said. “Large numbers of buildings in the UAE do not meet that standard.”

Visitors to Dubai would find it difficult to find out whether their hotel or accommodation block was clad in flammable or non-flammable material. “It’s not obvious just to look at it,” said Barry.

IFSEC Global reported on the issue back in 2013. Claire Mahoney, editor at Security Middle East Magazine, wrote that “Cost-conscious developers have left a legacy of fire risk in many of the United Arab Emirates’ iconic high-rise towers.”

Former firefighter Barry also blasted lax fire safety inspections, which were often conducted by unqualified expats or undermined by corruption.

Tall British buildings have been required to comply with British safety standard BS476, which meets the Class ‘0’ standard stipulating “no surface spread of flames”, since regulations were changed in the aftermath of the 1973 Summerland holiday park fire on the Isle of Man, which killed 50 people and injured eight seriously.

The retro-fitting skyscrapers with exterior sprinklers or spraying them with fire-retardant materials is likely to be delayed until legal wrangles over whether developers or building owners bear the prohibitively expensive costs are resolved.

The cause of the Dubai hotel fire remains unknown.

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You can see a time-lapse video of the fire, which was captured by photographer Kirill Neiezhmakov, below.

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January 7, 2016 12:39 pm

A fatality may not yet have occurred in Dubai but it has on at least two occasions in France. There was one fatality in a similar fire in Roubaix in 2012 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j4mIBQnUAfQ and seven fatalities at a fire in Dijon in 2010 http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xsyhbc_incendie-meurtrier-a-dijon-j-ai-vu-des-gens-sauter-par-la-fenetre_news

January 7, 2016 12:52 pm

All internal Fabrics and furnishings should also have been treated with Fire Retardant treatments , this may have prevented the spread of flame reaching the external areas of the building, as it has now been suggest the Fire may have started within the building from Curtains catching Light?
Envirograf have a great Fire Retardant Liquid that is so simple to apply and lasts several years and is widely used throughout the UK, in Hotels, Hospitals schools nursing homes to name but a few.

January 7, 2016 1:53 pm

This article seems to lack a grasp of Regulations and the fundamental Issue here. It is this nothing to do with Class 0 Surface Spread of Flame, typically these facades achieve that requirement as the outer skin is aluminium (or other non-combustible material) and therefore the fire will not spread on the surface of the cladding. This is often confused by architects and specifiers as the products often have a Class 0 rating and is then misunderstood as being compliant for use in high-rise schemes. The issue is the flammable core of insulation inside the cladding, this is covered in… Read more »

January 7, 2016 2:48 pm

I totaly agree with Phil Barry. Basic passive fire protection is vital in ensuring that a building will perform satisfactorily in a fire.We have had too many fires in high rise buildings and is only time before we will have a large mulitple fire death situation in these buildings. The object of the excercise is to contain the fire to the compartment of origin. Personaly I won’t stay in a hotel above 7 floors for the simple reason the fire service ladders get to the seventh floor after that I have to rely on the the hotel management. The Lakanal… Read more »

February 18, 2016 1:09 pm

A possible solution would be to use Video Fire Detection, the F/cam from Spotfire detects both Flame (outside and inside) and Smoke (inside) in its field of view, detection in most instances is under ten seconds which will allow the person monitoring to start the evacuation procedures and alert the emergency services, check out our Video of the F/cam on http://www.spotfireltd.co.uk