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January 5, 2022

Fire extinguisher misuse a threat to fire safety in the UAE

Fire extinguishers are a vital piece of the Active Fire Protection puzzle; often the first line of defence they are integral to preventing costly fire damage and ultimately, loss of life.

The importance of fire extinguishers is highlighted in Chapter 4 of the UAE Fire and Life Safety Code of Practice: “Portable Fire Extinguishers are the best available first response to table the fire at its incipient stage.”

The Code of Practice adds that to ensure this first aid response, fire extinguishers shall be “kept in their designated places at all times when they are not being used” and “conspicuously located where they will be readily accessible and immediately available in the event of fire.”

However, the misuse and neglect of fire extinguishers and their accessories in Dubai’s buildings is not uncommon, rendering them inaccessible or ineffective in a real emergency.

As part of the Office of the UAE Attorney General’s ongoing campaign to increase the public’s level of awareness of the law, it was announced that fines and even jail sentences would be handed down for fire extinguisher misuse.

The office states in Article 311 of the Federal Penal code, that: “Any person who removes a fire extinguisher or changes its location or renders it unfit for use shall be punished by a jail sentence for no less than one year or a fine of not less than 50,000 AED.”

With requirements for extinguishers to be installed near doors or exits, it is all too tempting for fire extinguishers to be used as temporary doorstops, especially in a post-COVID world.

Seeking to improve airflow as a COVID-19 control measure, the removal of fire extinguishers to wedge open doors threatens to undermine fire safety, making the extinguisher difficult to locate in an emergency.

The Extinguisher Stopper® is a sturdy, tamperproof, standalone alarm that prevents the misuse or unwanted removal of fire extinguishers. Strong PVC coated metal rope wraps around the neck of the extinguisher and when removed from the unit will activate a piercing 95/106 dB alarm to alert you to any misuse or removal.

Acting as a physical safety seal and audible tamper indicator, the Extinguisher Stopper® helps the person responsible for the inspection and maintenance of extinguishers avoid fines or a jail sentence for failing to keep them fit for use.

The self-contained unit will leave the extinguisher accessible for emergencies and will not interfere in the event of a real fire; the alarm is also useful in the case of an actual emergency acting as a pre-alarm, helping to alert people in the surrounding areas to the fire before an official alarm has sounded.

The compact design of the UV-stabilised polycarbonate unit means it mounts easily next to a vulnerable fire extinguisher, the alarm is easy to install and a deactivation cable is supplied for ease of servicing the protected extinguisher – a requirement of the UAE Fire and Life Safety Code of Practice.

Recent updates to the unit include universal sound symbols for global recognition and space for a choice of 21 different language labels that are provided, including Arabic. Wireless options allowing for remote monitoring are also available using STI protocol.

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