High risk for Dubai’s high rise residents
Know what to when there’s a real emergency in your building? Maybe it’s time you did. Precious de Leon, asks who’s responsible for your safety at home and at work.
November 14, 2011 4:21 by Precious de Leon
I once heard of an architect friend’s work colleague who never stayed above the 4th floor of any residential building or hotel. He says he did this because the fireman’s ladder does not go any farther than the 4th floor. He valued his life more than the view, he says.
How many of us really think about this safety issue when we daydream of living in penthouses and top floor suites? Hotels even charge us a premium for the high rise views but it never comes with clauses for safety in case of fire or natural disasters.
Nobody never wants to think about that, especially not while they’re on vacation. But what about safety at home? As this Emirates 24/7 article points out, residents living in higher floors are not aware of what to do in a worst-case scenario.
There have been only four instances I can remember that I have had to use the fire escape in an emergency situation in the UAE.
The first instance was in a four-story building in Dubai. My office was on the second floor and the fire was on the fourth. The next two were in Sharjah: one was for an earthquake and the other was for a fire in the garbage shoot. For the former, I had to go down from the sixth floor and the latter forced me to climb down from the 24th floor of a 26-storey building. The latest one was about three years ago in Kipp’s previous office in Dubai Media City. I went down to the lobby from the 19th floor only to find out that the alarm was triggered by someone in the 28-storey building smoking in the fire escape.
In all four cases, people vacated the building using the fire escape.
But there have been times when the fire alarm went off and most of the people in the office didn’t budge. We all just assumed it was a false alarm, because it often was. So what happens when it becomes the real deal?
There are two issues with getting people more aware about safety hazards of living and working in a high-rise building. First, it’s not legally mandatory for building developers or owners to create an emergency evacuation plan for their tenants. Secondly, can you imagine how much tougher of a sell it would be to show a prospective property buyer or renter the amazing view and then hand them a thick pamphlet about the evacuation plan in case of fire. It’s not exactly a deal closer, is it?
Of course we can’t go around being overly cautious to a point of paranoia. But it is a wonder why society has come a long way with creating skyscrapers that seemingly reach for the heavens but no real means of safety or rescue for those who live at the top.
I hardly think the solution is to keep all buildings no higher than four storeys. High rise buildings, after all, are an efficient use of space. But shouldn’t even the most basic safety programs progress as much as our feats in construction?
Maybe some arms need to be twisted to get any kind of safety regulation for evacuation plans. Who do you think should be responsible for this? Is it the government? Is it the building owners? Or is it on the tenants to get together and come up with a plan?