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May 30 2012

Qatar Mall Fire

Category: Egress,Fire Doors,Historical,VideosLori @ 4:33 pm Comments (8)

This is why we have codes, and code officials. 

A fire in an upscale shopping mall in Qatar has killed 19 people, including 13 children and 4 teachers from a child care center within the mall.  It is reported that the sprinkler system did not function, at least one staircase collapsed, floor plans were not immediately available to firefighters, the fire alarm didn’t properly warn shoppers of the situation, and some egress routes may have been compromised.  Emergency responders were unable to reach the children and teachers, and had to attempt a rescue through the roof of the building.  It is shameful that such a tragedy could occur in a new building, in a country with extensive resources, possibly because of lack of codes, or lack of compliance, or lack of inspection and testing to confirm that the building was safe to occupy.

Over the next few weeks I will be working with some new members of the hardware industry in Ingersoll Rand’s Specwriter Apprentice Program.  My goal is to inspire in them a passion for code compliance and a desire to do their part to make the buildings where we live, work, and visit safe.  Wish me luck.

Doha Fire:  Kiwi grandma talks about family’s devastation –

Doha News had unconfirmed reports that the top two managers of the mall had been arrested and would go to court, possibly facing charges tomorrow morning.  It is understood a stairway to the childcare centre collapsed, making it harder to reach the centre. Witnesses also said at least one exit in the mall was chained shut.   “We went out through a fire door that was luckily quite close to where we were and it was there that you could see the plumes of smoke coming out of the centre of the mall. Huge volumes of black smoke.”  He said a friend was eating at a restaurant in the mall before seeing the smoke and went to the first fire escape that he noticed, only to find it was actually chained shut.

Qatar Fire: Expatriates furious over officials’ lackadaisical attitude – Green Prophet

Too often development programs are pushed through without proper due process – a situation that Arwa unravelled with renowned mud architect Salma Samar Damluji, who sites greed as a principle driver of large scale construction projects imbued with the bigger is better mentality so common in Dubai.  No expense is spared to get these colossal malls built. The same due diligence should be paid to health and safety as well.

Experts demand safety review after deadly blaze – Construction Week Online

“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.”

Qatar investigates mall fire as young victims mourned – Christian Science Monitor

The tragedy also is likely to push authorities across the Gulf to further examine fire safety rules in a region where the drive to build fast and big has brought concerns about the level of emergency planning.  Rescue crews in Qatar’s capital Doha had to hack through the roof of the mammoth Villaggio mall to reach the child care facility, where the victims included 2-year-old New Zealand triplets and three Spanish siblings. Two firefighters also were killed.

5 detained in probe of deadly Qatar mall fire – CNN

The government has set up a committee to investigate “the causes and circumstances” of the blaze, QNA said Monday night. It is also investigating complaints that sprinklers and alarms weren’t working at the mall when the blaze broke out.  Christine Wigton, an American living in Doha, told CNN she heard “a buzzer, not very loud” as she walked into the mall, but heard no loud alarms as smoke built up inside. Elementary school-age children were eating at some of the restaurants and no one was trying to escape, she said.  “There were no sprinklers, and there was nothing that would tell somebody that something was wrong,” she said.

Firefighters tell of battle to save children from Qatar fire – Asia One

Abdel Khaleq al-Huwari, one of dozens of firemen who responded to the blaze, told AFP that the rescue teams were not informed of the existence of a nursery in the mall “until half an hour after” they arrived on the scene.  Huwari was one of the first in the nursery after the fire had died down and said he found his Moroccan colleague, Husam Shahboun, lying dead on the floor “holding two children in his arms.”  “The nursery is difficult to find and it has no emergency exits.”  Another firefighter, Amran Mohsen, told AFP that “some of the fire alarms were not working.”  Mohsen, who described Shahboun as “a leader to us”, said that all of the children in the nursery had died – “five in the ambulance, three at the hospital and the rest right at the spot.”

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8 Responses to “Qatar Mall Fire”

  1. Brad Keyes says:

    Good luck, Lori.

  2. Jeff Tock says:

    No mandatory Fire Door Inspections in Qatar!!

  3. Roberto Amaro says:

    The same here in Mexico. No codes effectively enforced, and an almost complete lack of knowledge from the architects and developers. Keep up the good work Lori, thank you!

    • Lori says:

      Hola Roberto –

      So the question is…what can be done to raise the awareness and application of the codes in Mexico and other countries in the same situation? If an architect understood code requirements, might they apply them even though the code is not formally adopted? For example, specify panic hardware on an Assembly space even if there is no local code?

      – Lori

      • Roberto Amaro says:

        Thanks Lori, that’s exactly what I try to do every day, along with my customers and colleagues. I try my best to stress the importance of safety and security from the Door & Hardware point of view in my presentations, when I’m invited to talk to our customer base or get an opportunity to talk to architects, developers and project owners. Since 2010 we have also volunteered to collaborate with the Mexican Government to create Federal and Local codes. I think something is getting started, and I’m sure we are changing the built environment in Mexico one opening at the time.
        Thanks again for sharing your knowledge and expertise.

        • Lori says:

          Let me know how I can help. I’m writing some materials which will be translated and used in our Safety and Security Institutes in other countries and I hope they will be used as guidelines even where codes don’t exist.

          • Roberto Amaro says:

            Thank you, I’ll let you know as soon as we reach the next stage. It will be the stage where we act as consultants to the Senate, the Chamber of Representatives and the office of the President. At this very moment everything is standing by, since next July 1st. we are having elections. I will keep you informed, your help will be greatly appreciated.

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