By Nawara Fattahova
KUWAIT: The new executive regulation of fire law no. 13/2020, which was recently issued, added many new safety measures to those included in the old law. Kuwait Times interviewed Maj Gen Khaled A Fahad, Deputy Chief Officer for Prevention Security at the Kuwait Fire Force (KFF) to shed light on the most important points of the new law.
“The previous fire law was over 40 years old, and Kuwait has developed in industrial, economic and architectural fields since then. Also, fire sciences have developed, which have contributed to the need to improve prevention and safety measures to meet our goals of protecting lives and properties,” said Fahad.
Many safety features were not included in the old fire law. “There was a gap in the list of structures that need a fire license, including buildings, places and transportation vehicles (commercial or for carrying hazardous material),” he said. “This law also focuses on licensing, transporting, handling and using hazardous materials. This came after numerous accidents involving these materials globally and locally. We work with international organizations and governments of developed countries that are experienced in fire prevention and safety and update our safety requirements,” Fahad added.
“The new law takes into account buildings under construction, fire equipment, inspection companies for elevators, accreditation of gas supply contractors and penalties for violators of safety requirements, which was increased to imprisonment of up to one year and fines of up to KD 50,000 according to the violation and the losses of lives and materials,” stressed Fahad.
According to the law, imports of fire equipment should be approved by the Kuwait Fire Force. “Also, ownership of industrial properties including land, buildings and factories cannot be transferred before the approval of the Kuwait Fire Force. This simplifies our work and for those in charge to complete paperwork easily,” he pointed out.
All projects should be reviewed by the Kuwait Fire Force before commencing any work. “The project should conform to safety and fire prevention codes and architectural requirements, have fire escapes, firefighting systems, fire alarms and lighting for entrances and exits. Also, whether it contains hazardous materials, along with engineering services in the building such as elevators, ventilators, steel structure protection, anti-fire doors and so on,” Fahad said.
So what about existing buildings? “We consider the period when a building was built, and do not require some modern measures that don’t suit it. We demand basic requirements of safety and fire prevention to protect users that do not affect the structure of the building. We always provide alternatives for existing buildings to reduce risks. For instance, if there are no water sprinklers in an old building, we can demand dividing the spaces in the building, so in case of fire, it won’t spread from one location to another, or we demand installing rubber hoses or fire extinguishers,” explained Fahad.
All commercial, industrial, hotel and residential buildings in investment and commercial areas and public institutions should have a fire license, except private houses. “This license is renewed every two years. Our inspectors go on inspection visits every two years to make sure the equipment is in good condition and working properly. The management or owner of the building is obliged to provide a maintenance contract to make sure the equipment is functional. Only then we renew the license,” he said.
“Regarding private houses in residential areas, we advise owners to have fire extinguishers, install fire detectors, have external gas extensions, automatic gas cutoff, gas alarms, install elevators licensed by KFF, regular maintenance of elevators and so on,” Fahad told Kuwait Times.
All establishments must have an authorized plan from the fire department. “Large buildings should also have an internal draft prepared by them which shows all entrances and exits, so in case of fire, firefighters will have a guide to lead them where to go. Also, buildings such as hotels must have fire escape plans in the hallways and in rooms for visitors to know where to go in case of emergency. Furthermore, all floors should be marked with the floor number to ensure quick rescue of people on these floors,” he noted.
When construction starts, KFF follows up to make sure all requirements are respected. “For instance, in the first stage of construction, there are many leftovers and debris such as wood that can be a fire hazard. So there should be temporary fire equipment, and building materials should be stored properly. Also, there should be clear paths at the project site to allow firefighting vehicles to pass smoothly in case of fire,” highlighted Fahad.
In the final stages of construction, KFF goes again for inspection. “We check the pipes inside the false ceiling that connect to water sprinklers. We check their size and type, whether they are placed properly, if water is reaching them or not and so on before décor work begins. If everything is correctly done, we give the approval. Our visits are repeated during construction, especially of high-rises, as we have to do this for every floor. Besides regular inspections, we go on random visits at the end of the construction to check the fire equipment and if license requirements are followed,” he noted.
Strict penalties are imposed on violators. Penalties are graded according to the severity of the violation and can reach up to one year of imprisonment or fine of up to KD 50,000 or both. “Building setbacks and cladding are part of our inspections during construction. The setback of the building should be respected to avoid the spread of fire, and should follow the construction plan. Exterior cladding or coating should be fire-resistant, as many recent blazes in Kuwait and other countries, especially the one in the UK (Grenfell Tower in London), were caused due to the cladding of the building,” Fahad said.
“Companies should meet preventive conditions and have valid licenses. They should also maintain their fire equipment. They shouldn’t make any changes to the building structure without approval of the KFF. We also advise individuals to install smoke detectors and fire extinguishers in their homes to save lives,” concluded Fahad.