Fire Crisis Management in the UAE

Executive summary

Crisis management is more important for nations today as populations become big and investments even bigger. Common characteristics of a crisis is it potential to destroy life and the brief time it allows for decision making. A crisis can be natural or man-made. A fire disaster is a good example of a crisis, requiring very quick response and accurate decisions. Fire safety and prevention today accounts for a very big part of many nations’ budgets even as climate changes make fire incidents more common.

This paper will focus on fire crises and use UAE as a case study. The region experiences extremely high temperatures all year round, putting it in a high risk category. Today, the region has invested heavily on development and receives a large number of foreign investors or tourists increasing its population levels drastically. It is therefore more important for the region to invest in fire management and prevent any fire incidents that could threaten lives and the huge investments.

Statistics also reveal that up to 8% of all fire disasters in the last three years have happened in the UAE, involving 800 victims and 20% of them didn’t survive (Oxford Business Group 17). The biggest concern in the region is the loss of property which has been so high from such disasters. It is reported that every year, the UAE losses an approximated AED 3, 400,000 worth of property in fire disasters (Oxford Business Group 18). As a result, the region has employed many strategies to fight this including holding national fire campaigns where education and awareness is created, as well as investing heavily on the latest technology in their prevention and response programs.

Crisis management

“Crisis management refers to the process by which organizations, countries or individuals deal with major event that threaten to endanger property of life” (Coppola 11). A crisis is defined by three elements: it threatens life and property, it comes as a surprise and it leaves a very short time to make decisions. “There are different types of crises including natural, technological, confrontation, leadership and crises of malevolence” (Craythorne 26). In this paper, the focus will be on fire, which can either be natural or man-made. The topic will cover fire prevention and safety and fire control programs, specifically looking at what are the most effective way to respond to local, regional, and national incidents and whether control centers must be localized, regional, or nationally based.

Crisis management is the process of dealing with major events which may threaten to harm an event, organization or the general public (Asimakopoulou 25). A crisis is characterized by a surprising element, threat to to harm and a short time for decisions. The need for change in the face of a crisis is imperative and changes made could define how bad the effects of a crisis will be. Crisis management also includes assessing potential threats of an outcome and putting in place measures to avoid or minimize damages. “Crisis management involves identifying methods to respond to real happenings and those which have a probability of happening, as well as establishing metrics that define scenarios that could lead to a crisis or trigger it” (Global Crisis Management Organization 14). Communication occurring within the emergency and response time is very key in damage control.

In fire management, there are different types of crisis. There are are natural disasters, there are disasters of management misconduct and technological crises. Malevolence is especially common when competitors decide to get back at each other or when there is social unrest in a region. “It occurs when one team or community uses extreme tactics for the purpose of expressing anger or hostility against the other group” (Durham Fire and Rescue Service 5). Many times a different group will do this with the intention of destroying the other team completely or their facilities. In a situation where there are big crowds, such a crisis could lead to major injuries and fatalities.

Natural crises are those which the people involved have no much control over. They include earthquakes, landslides, lightening strikes among other events which could harm life. Technical crises are those which result from poor application of technology such as electrical faults. Technological accidents occur when something is wrong with technical settings or malfunction of different technical equipments. Many of them are as a result of human error either at the point of manufacture or application. They could include poor handling of electrics which could cause fire, collapse of facilities as a result of poor assembly and many more scenarios. Confrontational crises are also common and occur when different groups or their supporters fight to show off dominance especially after losing on developments that included competition.

Other types of crisis include those related to poor management. They include poor entry or exit plans t buildings, which could cause stampedes or collapse of structures. Such incidents are common in sporting events and where management teams favor short-term economic gains and neglect safety and security measures. Management misconduct is many times blamed when there are such happenings especially in events which attract big crowds such as political rallies.

Crisis preparation and prevention is today emphasized in rules that govern every national, regional or local activity. Safety rules and regulations require that facilities be inspected regularly and certified by different safety organizations. Organizations such as Red Cross have been very instrumental in helping different organizations and groups prepare and prevent tragic happenings in crowded settings. Containment and damage control is another important part of crisis management. When life threatening situations arise, the main goal of crisis management is to limit threat of life and increase survival. Evacuation procedures and other processes are important in making sure that injuries or deaths are minimized as much as possible.

Risk management on the other hand identifies those situations which are a threat to safety, and implements corrective measures to eliminate the threat, significantly reduce the chances of a situation from arising, or minimize damage should the it occur (Global Crisis Management Organization 3). Risks in a crisis management situation can be loss of life, physical and mental injury, and loss of property. Any occurrence which may expose a person to any form of loss is considered in this category.

In any crowded environment, eliminating all risks usually means removing all the challenges and excitement associated with crowds, like in the case of sporting events. A risk management program is therefore important to help set the boundaries over how far challenges should go and how much risk should be allowed during any type of events. It is also important to enable organizations and companies increase their effectiveness in organizing events and ensure an effective use of funds for safety purposes. A proper risk management program minimizes the number of law suits against each other in different arenas, and significantly enhances the achievement of goals and missions of a particular activity.

Ensuring that the design of buildings is appropriate for the people who are using it is fundamental in risk management. The equipment must meet standards set by different safety associations. Supervisor-to-user ratio must be appropriate and should be set in consideration to age, type of activity and people living in them. Buildings, entertaining grounds and other facilities should have signs and warnings in languages which everyone understands to ensure that people don’t expose themselves to hazardous situations. Training and coaching is very important not just for professionals but for everyone.

Risk management is intended to create value and help in safety decision making processes. I”t is supposed to explicitly address uncertainties and be tailored to create transparency and inclusiveness of events so that risks are easily identified” (Craythorne 13). Risk management should include interactions, it should be dynamic and appropriately responsive to danger. It should create a continual improvement and enhance security during any events (Asimakopoulou 20). The process starts with establishing the context, in this case stability of facilities, fire fighting capabilities, evacuation procedures and many other safety concerns. “The identification process also includes planning and mapping out the scope of risk management” (Asimakopoulou 20). Defining a framework and developing an analysis enables stakeholders identify their objectives and identify constraints.

Introduction

All disasters, whether fire, drought, water (floods),ultimately bring about undesired upheavals. They not only have negative effects on life, but also on the economy of a region, the health of the people and animals, the environment and social arenas. In the case of big disasters such as floods and earthquakes, the damage is many times on a national level. For the case of fire, only a small territory may be involved but the damages may be extensive. Unless other forms of disasters, fire causes total destruction of life and property, making it hard to recover anything, if its not stopped fast enough. Massive production of smoke, heat, gases and fumes can have adverse effects on a bigger region than that under fire.

Fire effects can spread to far bigger regions and can last for a long time depending with what is burning. The effects of smoke and fumes are many times underestimated and yet have potential to cause a lifetime damage on people’s health as is evident when chemical producing or storing companies burn. This factor is many times ignored when assessing the effects of fire, resulting to an underestimation of the total damage.

One factor that makes fire disasters very tragic is panic. Anyone caught up in a burning facility is afraid they could lose their lives. This is from a realization that fire has the potential to kill in a very brief period of time or cause a permanent damage. Fire disasters many times result in an inexorable destruction of everything it touches. The surviving humans being will many times remain with extensive scars and surviving properties may have to be replaced completely. As a result of panic, proper procedures may not be followed as required. “When a fire breaks out, many people may experience temporary psychological paralysis, leaving them incapacitated for logical thoughts” (Asimakopoulou 20). The reactions that follow after that could either save one’s life or put it at a bigger risk.

More often than not, these instant decisions, made in panic and without any consideration to reason, only serve to worsen the situation, making it more tragic. For animals, their only way of thinking in instinctively but for human beings, there is a choice between acting haphazardly and acting in an orderly manner, a decision that could save or destroy lives at that particular moment. The only way to achieve organized behavior and reaction is through education, awareness and training. It is important for people to be educated on how to behave in the face of a fire. For regions more prone to fires, fire education should even be part of the school curriculum.

This paper will research on factors that cause fire disasters, characteristics that have shaped fire management evolution, the effects of fire crises on humans, animals and the environment, the effects on the economy, instruments used to mitigate these effects, fire management and the new scientific innovations on disastrology as far as fire is concerned. The paper will use the UAE as a case study and research on how far the region has come in managing fire related crises. It will study the recent Israel fire incident and review lessons learnt.

Literature review

Crisis management is a common subject of discussion among scholars, researchers and governments. It is of great importance for any nation that values the safety of its people, their investments, animals and the environment. In their article, Global Crisis Management Organization discuss the art of crisis management. The articles points out that any event, which has potential to harm life or property in a brief period of time, should be treated as a crisis. According to Global Crisis Management Organization, “crisis management is the art of making decisions to head off or mitigate the effects of such an event, often while the event itself is unfolding” (20). Many times, this will involve making decisions without adequate information about the situation and doing so under stressful circumstances. The article discusses planning, incident response and business continuity, which are the necessary steps for restoration after a fire disaster.

Eleana Asimakopoulou, in the book advanced ICTs for disaster management and threat detection: collaborative frameworks, discusses the role of technology in managing crises and developing better crisis management models. The author argues that technology has played a major role in reducing the number of lives lost in fire disasters. Comparing the statistics, it is evident that there has been major improvements in the way fire disasters are managed in different parts of the world. Technology has also made it easy to get help from neighboring regions if one region is not well prepared, since travel is faster.

ICT developments have played a major role in ensuring that information is easily accessible and easily shared. The author points out that developed and rich nations are able to managing a crises better when it happens, since they have access to the most recent technologies. Developing nations have not been able to access all the benefits that come along with ICT and have to rely on outside help when major disasters happen in their regions.

Dulon Craythorne, in the book municipal administration, argues the advantages and disadvantages of different administration settings. The author argues that managing disasters on a municipal and district level is better than doing it on a national level, since the services are nearer to the people. The book points out that management on a national level has the benefit of having consolidated funds and resources, building a stronger department. The well developed facilities and human resources may however, prove useless to people at the grassroots levels, since they may not be reached on time when a fire or any other crisis occurs.

The Oxford Business Group offers an elaborate report on the state of things at the UAE. The group reports that in the UAE, crisis management is taken seriously and its success is among the top priorities for the government. The report points out that the region is among the fastest growing in the world and attracts a lot of attention from all over the world. Since it offers many investment opportunities, foreign investors have a growing interest in the region. As a result, the UAE has to keep at its best to keep them interested. It is also as a result of this that the country’s population has almost doubled up compared to 20 years ago. Population growth puts the government at task of ensuring lives are protected and people’s properties are protected too.

The Oxford Group also explains that following the high levels of foreign investments flowing into the region, the UAE now boasts of the most expensive hotels and developments in the world. Property protection is therefore key for the government. The region experiences high levels of temperatures throughout the year, making it susceptible to fire disasters. The region has in the past been victim to many fire cases, with statistics revealing that it accounts for 8% of the world’s fire disasters. Many car accidents end up in fire and when fire breaks out in one area, it easily spreads to other areas.

In his book, Damon Coppola helps the reader understand disaster management and what it means for the international community. The author explains that the most important factor in disaster management is preparedness. According to the author, the need for change in the face of a crisis is inevitable and changes made define how bad the effects of a crisis will be. He also points out that assessment plays an important role in crisis management. It is important for establishing potential threats of an outcome and establishing ways to avoid or minimize damages. Damon lets the reader know that “crisis management involves identifying methods to respond to real happenings and those which have a probability of happening” (Coppola 13).

Damon further explains that crisis management involves establishing measurements that define scenarios that could lead to a crisis or cause one. Time is of essence in crisis management and communication occurring within the emergency and response time is a big factor of the whole process. An important argument in the book is the different crisis management capabilities that different regions hold. The rich nations seem to be at an advantage since they have both the resources and technology to respond in a timely manner.

In their report, Mark and William discuss the Management of mass causalities in the face of a disaster, as discussed in the international conference on burns and fire disasters. The report, which focuses on the UAE region, points out that fire management plans in the UAE help the region identify tools and strategies required to accomplish the plan’s objectives. Use of organizational charts help clearly indicate municipals that have been approved in the management plan. This way, it is easy to identify those areas that do not comply. According to the discussions, the bureau of land management has the responsibility of ensuring fire management plans are constantly monitored and new ones implemented. As part of ensuring this is done, each state submits their fire management report every twice a year. Each state in the UAE region has to prepare its resource utilization plan and submit it for approval and authorization. Staffing, renovations, purchases and any other expenses must all be included in the report and approved by the government, to allow proper monitoring of funds.

The Trident Press Staff’s report, called the UAE Yearbook 2009, helps highlight the region’s position. The group reports that in the UAE, the seven states or emirates, all ruled by emirs, come together and work on fire management together. Since major government decisions and office are in the capital, Abu Dhabi, the region has found a way to ensure that every state has access to fire managing resources and authority. This is through district fire management organizations, all well equipped to deal with crises and leaders vested with enough power and authority to make important decisions. Integrated fire management planning brings together all the states, facilitates discussions on fire management and allows sharing of ideas. It is through this mode of management that planning and management in all the states is synchronized.

The report also enlightens the reader on the country’s progress on crisis management and records reduced cases of deaths from fire disasters and an increased budget to keep the country well prepared on the same. Being a country whose weather easily encourages fire, the levels of preparedness has been built up by investing in more recent technologies and ensuring that disaster management is done at a local level. It is also through training and public awareness, helping residents raise an alarm anytime they encounter anything that could trigger danger.

Fire management in the UAE

For many years now, fire management has played an important role in the UAE region. The region experiences extremely high temperatures all year round, putting it in a high risk category. Just like it is in other parts of the world, the people here have several uses for fire, serving their social, physical and cultural needs. The high temperatures in the region however, means that if not managed wisely, fire has potential to wreck so much havoc in the region. Today, the region has invested heavily on development and receives a large number of foreign investors and tourists, increasing its population levels drastically. It is therefore now more important for the region to invest in fire management and prevent any fire incidents that could threaten lives and the heavy investments.

Recent statistics reveal that up to 8% of all fire disasters in the last three years have happened in the UAE, involving 800 victims and 20% of them didn’t survive (Oxford Business Group 17). The biggest concern in the region is the loss of property which has been so high from such disasters. It is reported that every year, the UAE losses an approximated AED 3, 400,000 worth of property in fire disasters (Oxford Business Group 18). As a result, the region has organized a yearly burn week held in Dubai, many times held in police academies. The event is held under the patronage of the UAE deputy rulers and health authorities. Last year’s event was supported by major global organizations such as the International Society for Burn Injuries (ISBI) and the World Health Organizations (WHO), revealing the amount of attention fire crises attract in the UAE. Last year’s theme was to “create further awareness in burn prevention and cure through the National Burn Week, which is a crucial platform for all professionals in the related faculty to share knowledge in addressing issues related to burns” (Oxford Business Group 67).

According to Dr. Ali Al Numairy, the region’s president of their medical association, there are still many severe burn incidents reported in the region, making it very important for the public and the medical profession to be aware of all the necessary precautions in fire emergency situations. The National Burn Week and fire programs in the region are intended at creating awareness and ensuring that the statistics are minimized.

The program revolves around subjects such as Topical Management of Burns, Systematic Management of Burns, Reconstruction and Rehabilitation, Fire and Safety and concludes with general lectures of Burn Prevention and Cure. The programs not only addresses the needs of medical professionals but professionals involved with the production and supply of burn prevention tools (Oxford Business Group 67).

Planning and management

Fire planning and management includes resources management and directions for land management. In 2005, the UAE had a fire and fuels resources management plan amendment to allow for better planning and management of any crises that may occur. “The amendments covered the whole of the UAE region and the purpose was to improve bureau of land management’ implementation of the National Fire Plan and the 2001 Fire Policy” (Oxford Business Group 18). Just like in other regions, fire management plans are supposed to act as supplements to the resource management plans and should be more detailed with specific plans as regards sites and locations. Planning and management is supposed to help establish objectives strategies, and serve as a reference for all the decisions made at the ground level whenever a crisis occurs. Each district has its own city council management plan, and it is required by law to have an approved fire management plan. The region reviews its fire plans annually and updates them as deemed necessary.

Fire management plans in the UAE help the region identify tools and strategies required to accomplish the plan’s objectives. An organizations chart has been developed, clearly indicating municipals and positions approved in the management plan. This way, it is easy to identify those areas that do not comply. The bureau of land management has the responsibility of ensuring fire management plans are constantly monitored and new ones implemented. As part of ensuring this is done, each state submits their fire management report every twice a year. Each emirate has to prepare its resource utilization plan and submit it for approval and authorization. Staffing, renovations, purchases and any other expenses must be included in the report and must be approved by the government, based on the anticipated budget and the funds available.

Integrated fire management

“The key element of Integrated Fire Management Planning (IFMP) is bringing together a range of fire agencies and organizations to discuss, plan and and manage fire in a country or community” (Trident Press Staff 10). In the UAE, the seven states or emirates come together and work on fire management together. Since major government decisions and offices are in the capital, Abu Dhabi, the region has found a way to ensure that every state has access to fire managing resources and authority. This is through district fire management organizations, all well equipped to deal with crises and leaders vested with enough power and authority to make important decisions. Integrated fire management planning brings together all the states, facilitates discussions on fire management and allows sharing of ideas. It is through this mode of management that planning and management in all the states is synchronized.

Each state is responsible for preventing fire, responding to fire incidents, ensuring its own preparedness, recovery and other functions related to fire management. The states also have a responsibility to ensure proper use of fire both culturally and environmentally. Integrated fire management allows the states to come together and ensure a more integrated and strategic fire management approach (Trident Press Staff 21). By doing this, the states are able to strengthen each other and reduce the impact of fire incidents when they happen. IFMP helps the states create consistency and allows the country have a national approach to any issues related to fire. It also allows for the development of continuous improvement,through suggestions brought on board from different experiences.

Integrated fire management planning in the UAE is made possible through the establishment of municipal, emirates and national committees. “Through these committees, members have an opportunity to understand each other’s roles in fire management planning and bring in individual plans for the good of the region” (Trident Press Staff 28). Communities, businesses and organizations are fully involved in this process to ensure that plans put in place cater to everyone’s needs. Their development and implementation also includes extensive consultations from all stakeholders to ensure only fair judgments and implementations are made.

“Each emirate (state) or field office must have an approved fire management plan” (Trident Press Staff 34).There are fire and responsive offices on a regional, district and local level, to ensure that people are reached on time. Other than fire fighting, the national offices are responsible for major developments such as research and investing on the best technology. They are also responsible for coordinating national activities such as training. The regional and local offices are responsible for getting response from the people and organizing community education and awareness.

Fire disaster planning and response

Fire disaster planning and response call for even more strategy elaboration, and they are to be done in a satisfactorily manner. Response and rescue phases require the most sophisticated and efficient managerial systems, since they are the biggest determinant of how much life and property is lost or saved. Prevention and prediction are considered the most important phases of fire management, since they have potential to save a nation a lot of resources and time if done effectively. Any country in the world right now needs to be well equipped with medical response tools, rehabilitation capacity and fire education channels.

For burn disasters, there is need for an efficient health management plan. It should include a fast evaluation of the extent of the damage, very specific and effective assistance response, a quick assessment of the local capability to handle the crisis, and an evacuation procedure away from the danger zone. If the local facilities are not capable of handling the disaster, the plan must have proper provisions for quick transportation of casualties to the proper treatment facilities. A proper health management plan must also provide proper room for recovery and rehabilitation.

Unless tested through training and trial, disaster plans can prove quite useless at the point of need. The public must be educated about them, there must be adequate resources and skill to support them and they should be constantly updated. In fire management, civil and cultural management is defined by the locals’ ability to acquire emergency capabilities and put them to use appropriately when incidents occur.

Aspects of a fire disaster:

  1. In many cases, the number of people involved is high
  2. The general condition of victims is usually life threatening, especially from the fact that internal damage may not be easy to determine.
  3. Physical burns tend to be intensive, a factor determined by how long the person was exposed to the fire.
  4. Most victims suffer much more than burns with many fractures, wounds and inhalation lesion cases witnessed.
  5. Many casualties suffer hypovolaernic shock, usually experienced the first few hours after the incidence.
  6. Survival is easily jeopardized by inhalation of poisonous gases and fumes.
  7. Inaccessibility of the victims especially when they are trapped in the higher floors or the basement. In such situations, speedy response may not do much for them.
  8. Carrying and transportation of the causalities is tricky as it can cause further damage. It should therefore only be done by experts.
  9. Even when the number of immediate deaths is low, people in a condition of potential mortality or disability is usually high until their situation has been assessed by a professional doctor.
  10. Of paramount importance is the rapid assessment and care of all the injured people to minimize deaths and cases of permanent damages.

Plan for fire disasters

In the light of such considerations, it is important for every country to be precise on their plan and references when dealing with a crisis related to fire. Masellis and William, defines disaster management as “all phases of preventing, planning, preparedness, training response, relief, rehabilitation and reconstruction of a major emergency or disaster” (11). Planning and implementation of fire emergencies must be done in consideration with risks involved and the predicted damage. Planning must therefore include instruments necessary to stop or minimize the immediate dangers when it happens. Each state must have adequately programmed disaster management strategies, which should include specific responses to specific threats. The general view of planning is to create a specific response to physical, psychological and environmental challenges.

The plan for a fire disaster is developed in three lines which are; medical rescue, use of specific equipments and the means of rescue for burned victims (Food and Agriculture Organizations of the United Nations 3). The effectiveness of the plan is influenced by both local and external factors. Particular circumstances such as weather conditions and the period of burning may also influence the outcomes of a disaster. Local interventions such as the behavior of people present at the scene and speed of action, play a decisive role on the outcome of a disaster.

From the above considerations, a management plan in the event of a fire disaster must include a fast and timely evaluation and assessment of the extent of the crisis, as well as a specific health response program on site. The plan must have the capacity to assess the local capacity to handle the disaster and have access to external help if there are no enough structures to do so. A selective evacuation of casualties and property from the crisis area is an important part of the plan.

Methodology

The research methodology applied in this paper included study of books, academic journals, online articles, past projects by different authors, government statistics and interviews with experts in the fire department. It also included a study of various works on fire management in the UAE region, which is the region used as a case study for this paper. Study of books and different articles reveals that crises related to fire are today a major concern for many countries including the UAE, perhaps from a realization that fire can be a big threat for the development and progress of a country. To prevent fire disasters and minimize damage from fire accidents, many countries have realized that the most important factor in fire crises management is preparedness. As a result, a lot of attention is being focused on preparedness and prevention.

It is also clear that many countries are spending a lot of money to ensure safety for their citizens and their investments. Such information was collected from various reports by governmental and non-governmental organizations. These reports served very effective and relevant in trying to understand this paper’s concept. Recent and past books and research papers by different authors were also helpful in understanding crisis management, especially in regards to fire.

Questionnaires were used to collects data and information. They were directed at local residents. Government officials and professionals in the field. This was so as to get everyone’s view and take on the matter. The questionnaires were distributed to 50 people, all above the age of 18. The questions were easy and straight forward, making it easy for all the participants to answer them regardless of their level of education. All the 50 questionnaires distributed were well filled and returned.

Another method of data collection included interviews. Several employees in the fire department were interviewed to understand the roles of the fire fighting department and how well the roles are played. Another interview was with Dr. Ali Al Numairy, the region’s president of their medical association, which was done by phone. The purpose of this interview was to understand the role of different governmental institutions in managing crises, especially those caused by fire. It was meant to understand the country’s preparedness in case of a fire crisis, especially in terms of saving lives through available medical facilities and care to the victims. Views from fellow students were collected to get their thoughts on the subject and how it affects them.

Data analysis

Studying different literature materials revealed that the world has a long way to go before mastering the art of crisis management. The differences in crisis management between developed and developing nations is also clear. Developed nations have better strategies and tools to manage crises when they occur. They also have access to modern technology and the required resources for a quick response in times of a crisis. Developing nations on the other hand lack the capability and the skills to react to crises in a timely manner when they happen. Many have to depend on help from neighboring and developed nations, a process that may take time and delay rescue activities.

In the UAE, crisis management is taken seriously and its success is among the top priorities for the government. The region is among the fastest developing countries in the world and attracts a lot of attention from all over the world. Since it offers many investment opportunities, foreign investors have a growing interest in the region. As a result, the UAE has to stay its best to keep them interested. It is also as a result of this that the country’s population has almost doubled in the last 20 years. Population growth puts the government at task of ensuring lives are protected and people’s properties are protected too.

Following the high levels of foreign investments flowing into the region, the UAE now boasts of the most expensive hotels and developments in the world. Property protection is therefore key for the government. The region experiences high levels of temperatures throughout the year, making it susceptible to fire disasters. The region has in the past been victim to many fire cases, with statistics revealing that it accounts for 8% of the world’s fire disasters. Many car accidents end up in fire and when fire breaks out in one area, it easily spreads to other areas.

Out of the 50 questionnaire sent out to different participants, all them were filled and returned. From the feedback, it is clear that fire crises are a big threat to the region’s development and livelihood. 90% of the participants think that if not taken seriously, fire disasters could cause the region the good reputation it has established as a business and tourism destination. They point out that weather conditions and increasing populations call for extra efforts to ensure that no life is lost or property destroyed due to poor crisis preparedness.

Many people are however, satisfied by the government’s efforts to prevent fire incidents and manage crises appropriately anytime they occur. They therefore do not think their livelihoods are threatened by fire crises. Majority of the people feel that the government has done a good job in managing any crises related to fire. Fire offices are localized and so are control centers, to allow for easy access to help and allow the firefighters reach the people easily. Each state in the UAE has its own, well equipped staff and fire management equipments. The offices are not only on a state level but there are smaller stations at a district level. This way, fire stations and call centers are assigned to small population sizes, which they can easily manage in case of a disaster.

There is also a high level of cooperation between governmental and non-governmental organizations when it comes to awareness and training in crisis management. This is evident from the amount of support offered by global organizations such as the Wold Health Organization (WHO) during the regions fire awareness week. The annual National Burn Week for instance attracts a lot of attention and support from WHO, the Mediterranean Burns Club and the International Society for Burn Injuries just to mention a few. The people also point out that in return, the government has been fully supportive of crisis management initiatives taken up by such organizations in the region.

Since the middle east is an oil region, poor management during transportation and refining could lead to extremely catastrophic fire disasters. As a result, oil transportation and distribution channels in the region are all considered as high risk areas. The region encourages safer methods of oil transportation and use by creating awareness and putting in place safety measures, which attract big legal consequence if not adhered to. Constant monitoring and evaluation of such high risk areas by the government, through the fire department, ensures that people are not exposed to unreasonable risks.

Another important factor for UAE residents is training and awareness, an area in which the government is highly applauded for taking it up with importance. 40 of the respondents agreed that the government has done averagely well in creating awareness and training its people on fire disaster management. Such initiatives are carried out through businesses and organizations, who are required to ensure that their employees are trained on the same with the help of the government.

From government statistics, it is clear that the government has made much progress in minimizing the number of deaths from fire crises in the country. The number has reduced by 40% from the year 2002 (Oxford Business Group 154). The amount spend on protection is however on the rise. It is up by 30% from the 2002 statistics (Oxford Business Group 154).

From the information collected, the number of deaths and cost of protection against fire disasters can be summarized in the table below:

Country Number of deaths Cost of protection $ million
USA 3700 34500
Belgium 500 10000
Canada 300 4000
France 550 4700
Japan 2300 18000
UK 590 5000
UAE 303 2150
Denmark 75 2000

Comparing the regions’ population with that of other countries, the number of deaths is relatively high while the cost of protection is also high. The high cost arises from the many initiatives the region is taking to ensure its growing population is protected and so are the huge investments made in the region.

These statistics can be summarized in the graph below:

graph

Performance requirements in potential fire hazards areas can be summarized below:

Level of development assessment
Development requirement Self assessable Code assessable Impact assessable
Compliance with an approved fire management plan x x x
Appropriate house site location x x x
Building design and construction x x x
Appropriate clearing and landscaping x x
Provision of fire/ maintenance trails x x
Advice to new residents x x
Appropriate vehicle access x x
Appropriate lot layout x x
Appropriate land use x x
Provision of adequate water supplies x x

The x represents those areas where development requirements apply. They may vary with different potential hazard sites.

Recent fire incident and lessons learnt

The worst fire incidents in the world have left no doubt that fire is amongst the biggest threats to life and livelihood. In 1877, the worst fire disaster claimed 1,500 lives in a matter of hours in Peshtigo, USA. Countries such China have experienced fires that claimed hundreds of life. As recent as 2009, 66 people died from a fire in an entertainment joint in Thailand while more than 300 were injured.

A most recent incident was that in Israel in December 2010. A massive fire in Haifi killed 43 people. A wildfire broke out 5 Kms from Haifi, the country’s second largest city, claiming 43 lives, injuring 17 and leaving many more people affected. Lack of adequate equipments to fight the fire caused it to spread across 750 Km and to more than 1,000 Km before it was finally brought into control. Countries such as Turkey, France, Russia, Cyprus and the USA sent firefighting teams. Turkey sent its firefighting planes to aid the firemen in putting the fire under control.

For a big and well able country such as Israel, the incident was an eye opener to other countries as to how easy it is to be caught up unawares in the face of a crisis. It was a good lesson over how easy it is to underestimate the risk facing a nation. Many countries measure their level of risk and base their preparedness through their population size, leaving out other factors such as forestry size like in the case of Israel. The issue of preparedness was also brought up in the incident. Another important lesson in the incident was the role of technological innovations in managing crises today. The country was able to get quick response from other nations since traveling has become easier. Use of planes to spray fire extinguishing chemicals throughout the forest was also easier as a result of better technology.

Conclusion

As defined by Coppola “Crisis management refers to the process by which organizations, countries or individuals deal with major event that threaten to endanger property of life” (11). A crisis is defined by its potential to threaten life and property, it surprise element and the brief time it allows for decisions. Risk management on the other hand involves identifying those situations that threaten safety and then implementing corrective solutions to eliminate or minimize the impact of the threat should it happen (Global Crisis Management Organization 3). Risks in a crisis management situation can be loss of life, physical or mental injury and loss of property. Any occurrence which may expose a person to any form of loss is considered in this category.

Fire management plays an important role in the UAE, a region that experiences extremely high temperatures all year round, putting it in a high risk category. Just like it is in other parts of the world, the people here have have several uses for fire that serve their social, physical and cultural needs. The high temperatures in the region however, means that if not managed wisely, fire has potential to wreck so much havoc in the region. Today therefore, the region invests heavily on fire safety and prevention to protect its locals and the large number of foreign investors and tourists it receives. It has become increasingly important for the region to invest in fire management and prevent any fire incidents that could threaten lives and the heavy investments in all its states.

Statistics reveal that the region still experiences many number of fire incidents. Up to 8% of all fire disasters in the last three years have happened in the UAE, involving 800 victims and 20% of them didn’t survive (Oxford Business Group 17). The amount of losses from these incidents is approximated to be worth AED 3, 400,000 (Oxford Business Group 18). As a result, the region is putting in place measures to ensure this is put under control by investing heavily on prevention and response when incidents happen.

Fire management plans in the UAE helps the region identify tools and strategies required to accomplish the plan’s objectives. An organizations chart has been developed, clearly indicating municipals and positions approved in the management plan. This way, it is easy to identify those areas that do not comply. The bureau of land management has the responsibility of ensuring fire management plans are constantly monitored and new ones implemented. As part of ensuring this is done, each state submits their fire management report every twice a year. Each emirate has to prepare its resource utilization plan and submit it for approval and authorization. Based on the anticipated budget and the funds available, each state’s budget must be approved by the government to ensure proper use of funds.

Integrated fire management planning in the UAE is made possible through the establishment of municipal, emirates and national committees. “Through these committees, members have an opportunity to understand each other’s roles in fire management planning and bring in ideas for the good of the region” (Trident Press Staff 28). Communities, businesses and organizations are fully involved in this process to ensure that plans put in place cater to everyone’s needs. Their development and implementation also includes extensive consultations from all stakeholders to ensure only fair judgments and implementations are made.

“Each emirate (state) or field office must have an approved fire management plan” (Trident Press Staff 34). There are fire and responsive offices on a regional, district and local level, to ensure that people are reached on time. Other than fire fighting, the national offices are responsible for major developments such as research and investing on the best technology. They are also responsible for coordinating national activities such as training. The regional and local offices are responsible for getting response from the people and organizing community education and awareness.

From the survey, it is clear that the region has done a lot to ensure fire incidents are minimized in the region. When they happen, there has been enough measures to ensure impact is minimized. Majority of the people interviewed and questioned reveal that they are satisfied with the government’s training and awareness initiatives. They also point out that tough regulations have been put in place to ensure investors are responsible for safety in their developments and employers train employees on safety. Through such measures, the area is definitely on the right track to ensuring that their crisis management capability is at its best.

Recommendations

A proper crisis management plan can help a country preserve its reputation. The first step towards a proper crisis management plan is having the right information. Any nation intending to perfect their art of crisis management must have the right data and information about their population, level of threat, climatic trends, rates at which crises occur in the region and causes. False facts can lead to wrong decisions in the face of a crisis and could cost more lives and property than should have happened.

Another important step for proper crisis management is gathering a relevant team. A proper team is important for preparation, prevention and response when a crisis does occur. The team must have access to every part of the region, meaning that a country must have the right teams at a national, regional and local level. Since it is very easy to make the wrong decisions in panic, procedural manuals for them must be in place to prevent such happenings.

It is important for a region such as the UAE to seek external help from bigger countries who have been exposed to big crises in the past. To fully benefit from new technological innovations, countries must also consult to benefit from each other’s new ideas. Consultations are made possible by fine tuning a country’s communication style and establishing good relationships with its neighbors. Such initiatives prove very helpful when a country needs help from its neighbors in times of trouble.

Setting timeliness for important projects will help a country improve its preparedness. It also helps manage a crisis in a more timely manner. Each process scenario must be highlighted in the timeline to ensure that teams don’t spend unnecessarily long times on one aspect of a crisis. Timeliness allow order and organization during a rescue mission, an initiative that could go a long way in saving lives and minimizing casualties.

For the UAE, the country has done much to ensure the safety of its people. There needs to be more awareness and training for the locals, especially those in the rural areas. The country needs to invest more on preventing road accidents, many of which end up in fire disasters. It is also important for the country to put in measures to enlighten the many foreigners it receives on safety procedures. This can be done by use of written literature such as brochures places in hotels and entertainment joints. It can also be done by posting videos on their travel websites.

Works cited

Asimakopoulou, Eleana. Advanced ICTs for Disaster Management and Threat Detection: Collaborative Frameworks. Hershey, PA: Information Science References, 2010. Print.

Coppola, Damon. Introduction to International Disaster Management. Amsterdam: Butterworth Heinemann, 2007. Print.

Craythorne, Dulon. Municipal Administration: The handbook. Cape Town: Juta, 2006. Print.

Durham Fire and Rescue Service. Fire Safety Management and Fire Emergency Plan, 2010. Web.

Food and Agriculture Organizations of the United Nations (FAO). Forests and Fire, 2009. Web.

Global Crisis Management Organization. Crisis Management, 2009. Web.

Masellis, Mark and William Gunn. The Management of Mass Burn Causalities and Fire Disasters: Proceedings of the First International Conference on Burns

and Fire Disasters. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 2000. Print.

Oxford Business Group. The Report Sharjah 2010. Bahrain: Oxford Business Group. 2010. Print.

Trident Press Staff. UAE Yearbook 2009. Dubai: Trident Press Limited, 2010. Print.

UTAS Organization. Fire Planning and Management, 2009. Web.

Appendices

Questionnaire

  1. Are unplanned fires in UAE a threat to assets and a sustainable livelihood?
  2. Are the responsible authorities doing enough to manage crises caused by fire incidents?
  3. Are organizations working towards eliminating fire crises supported by the government?
  4. Are there any fuel-related programs in place as a way of preventing and reducing fire risks?
  5. Is the use of planned development and landscapes used to promote safety and minimize a risk of large-scale destructive fires?
  6. Is there adequate monitoring and evaluation by the government on risk areas to help with planning?
  7. Do you have any trainings on crisis management and fire safety? If so how often and how intense?
  8. Are community-based training and awareness programs common and do they cover all the all stages of fire crisis management: before, during a fire event and after?
  9. Do you think the government has done enough to minimize and prevent any future fire crises?
  10. Is there safety for the public and fire fighters in fire activities?