Safety measures strictly enforced in high-rise buildings, says official
The Civil Defense Department in Riyadh has achieved 95 percent success in its campaign to ensure safety of people living in high-rise buildings in the capital city, said Maj. Gen. Ayesh Bin Ahmed Al-Talhi, director of the department in the Riyadh region.
“We started the campaign just before Haj and our officers are continuing their efforts to enforce application of safety measures and conditions at towers and other high-rise buildings to ensure the safety and security of residents,” he told Saudi Gazette.
He said the first phase of the campaign was successful in tracking down a number of violations. “We stopped construction work on 9 towers during the first phase and allowed their owners to restart work only after fulfilling the safety conditions,” he pointed out.
During the second phase, he added, officers prevented construction at 8 towers after noticing safety violations.
Al-Talhi said a standpipe system with water tanks below or above the building and fire hose cabinets in each floor could facilitate firefighting endeavors.
“Safety workers in these towers should be trained on how to use these hoses to at times of fire,” Al-Talhi said highlighting the role of electronic smoke sensors, fire alarms and automatic fire sprinkler systems in containing the blaze.
He spoke about the difficulties faced by firefighters at malls and other crowded areas as well as to reach buildings situated along narrow streets.
“Lack of public awareness on ways to handle huge fires is another major issue,” the director said, adding that people should inform Civil Defense, use safety methods and handle fires scientifically to protect the lives of residents and ensure safety of properties.
He narrated a tragedy that was caused by the mishandling of a fire by the head of the family. He did not inform his family members about the fire and left them sleeping and went up to the terrace to find something to extinguish the small fire that broke out from the heater.
The man did not open windows and did not put wet clothes on the noses of children. He did not inform Civil, Defense and went out instead to get the help of neighbors. By the time firefighters arrived after half an hour, all members of his family had died, he said.
He said the gathering of people at fire sites would hamper firefighting and rescue operations. “People should remain at home at times of heavy rains and floods and follow instructions given through SMS, national television and the social media,” he said.
Al-Talhi praised the Saudis’ readiness to help others in trouble. “But they should keep away from accident spots when firefighters arrive.”
However, he praised the efforts of Saudi volunteers in rescuing precious lives after road accidents and during floods. “We have employed some of these Saudis considering their skills and honored others.”
The director also spoke about 70 dangerous spots such as swamps and holes. “We cooperate with municipalities to reduce the danger posed by such spots.”
The water drainage system in Riyadh covers only 24 percent of the city. The operation rooms of the mayoralty and the Civil Defense work together to avoid rain-related accidents. “We monitor water levels at 19 underpasses at major roads and close them when water exceeds reasonable levels.”
Answering a question, he said only a very few cases of fire accidents were criminally motivated, adding that his officers support investigations into such incidents to find out the culprits. “About 45 percent of fire accidents are caused by short circuits, low quality electric cables and poor wiring,” he said.
“We cannot impose safety conditions on house owners but create safety awareness through campaigns. We also advise them to keep fire extinguishers at homes,” he added.
Gen. Al-Talhi warned against possible time bombs at homes such as gas cylinders and water heaters, which could explode at any time as a result of misuse and bad handling. “We should prevent children from approaching such potential dangers.”
He emphasized the need to establish cameras at firms that keep dangerous chemicals and material to spot fires and ensure its quick suppression. “We have started implementing this project. Some of these locations have been provided with cameras and GPS systems.”