By Elizabeth Broomhall
Villaggio Mall tragedy must act as wake-up call for building security managers - experts
Fire security experts are calling for building managers in the region to redouble their safety efforts in the wake of a deadly blaze at a Qatar mall that left 19 dead.
Thirteen young children including two-year old triplets died in the fire, which broke out in a nursery at Doha's Villaggio Mall.
While the cause of the blaze is yet to be established, the Qatari Ministry of Interior acknowledged a lack of floor plans for the centre and malfunctioning sprinkler systems had obstructed rescue efforts.
One expert believes that poor implementation of fire safety codes is not uncommon across the region, despite a reasonably high standard of safety regulations.
“I don’t believe the [fire and life safety] codes are lacking, I think it’s the application of the codes that is the problem,” said Faimeen Shah, manager of fire safety engineering at Exova, in Dubai.
“The answer is to improve the practices. You have the same codes in other parts of the world, but you don’t get these sorts of fires or fatalities."
He added: “It’s not just sprinklers, it is stairs, doors, direction of door openings, whether doors are locked, where you have access controls and so on."
Another expert, who asked not to be named, said a lack of maintenance in the Gulf is also prevalent.
“Some of the systems you’re supposed to test every month or every two weeks, but over here they do it every three months. And if you have a fault in one of the systems they don’t fix it straight away. I assume this is because there are no heavy fines from the authorities for these issues, and they don’t have the insurance companies enforcing these requirements.”
He added: “They really need people who understand the regulations and take seriously the safety issues. They don’t really care so much about it. They only ever care about getting past the authorities, and owners don’t want to spend a lot of money to fix problems.”
Villaggio Mall did not respond to Arabian Business' request for comment.For all the latest construction news from the UAE and Gulf countries, follow us on Twitter and Linkedin, like us on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube page, which is updated daily.
This is a tragedy nobody wishes to happen; its of course easy to find faults now. I hope the needed changes will be very visible.
But I do have a general comment; I once or twice a year to Qatar, but the general perception I have form their infrastructure is not very good; its visible to every visitor. Being one of the richest countries, and with that being very small, it was juts appalling to see the poor condition of many roads, and some parts of the infrastructure. Especially in the industrial area, some roads and roundabouts have been completely worn down; I think maintenance in general is really poor in Qatar and is only a â€œtheoreticalâ€ concept.
Planned preventative maintenance programmes are considered an on cost in the GCC and as such the service (if provided) is of a thread bare nature and elements such as life safety systems do not receive the required level of maintenance.
Also to suggest that a lack of floor plans hindered the rescue operation is inexcusable, we are talking amount a relatively new mall and this information should have been available on site alongside all as-built information.
If the stories are true, it's time Qatar got their head out of the clouds with air conditioned football stadiums and got building & managing the basics right to prevent this heartbreaking story happening again.
It is very strange that the Civil Defense did not have the floor plans available to them. This should have been submitted to them prior to giving approval for the Mall. It is a common practice that these plans of all public places should be available with Civil & Security Authorities, with changes if any being notified.