This month’s Specifically Speaking Q&A is with Robert Davies, the technical director and deputy head of fire & life safety Middle East at WSP
Talk about your current role and the work you are doing in the GCC.
I am deputy head of the fire & life safety team at WSP in the Middle East, the largest fire consultancy team in the Middle East with a wide range of expertise in the field. My role, beyond managing and developing the team, includes the following: fire & life safety design for a range of project types, fire risk assessments, fire safety training, inspections of fire safety installations, materials specification and fire performance assessments, performance based designs, and liaison with the local authorities.
What unique challenges do you still see in this region regarding fire safety?
The region is vast and there is a lot of fire safety related work being done or needing to be done. The number of qualified fire safety professionals proportional to the work is considerably less when compared to other parts of the world.
There have been a spate of high profile fires again in the UAE. Is there still a cultural shift needed when it comes to fire prevention?
There needs to be a greater focus on fire safety training and education across all areas of the market. The materials and systems that are being specified are sometimes not appropriate, the quality of installation work and the standard of maintenance can be inadequate, and people are not always aware of the appropriate actions to take when they hear a fire alarm. These all tie back to one common issue – and that is a lack of awareness of fire safety issues and a lack of qualified individuals in the region.
Tell us about your experience speaking at the Safety Design in Buildings (SDiB) events?
It has always been a positive experience. WSP are known for our high profile projects in the region such as Al Shaqab Equestrian Centre in Doha, Mall of the Emirates in Dubai and Zayed National Museum in Abu Dhabi. So I do not need to use the SDiB conference as a means to raise WSP’s profile as the leading fire safety experts in the region. I discuss the issues that need to be addressed. So far I have presented on the importance of code uniformity i.e. ensuring that everyone is designing to the same set of codes and standards, and the challenges of designing high occupancy buildings with a focus on the behaviour of the occupants.
Discuss the work you have been doing in Qatar and any progress made.
Our main approach is to ensure that our work complies with the local requirements but we also strive to improve fire safety standards across the market. We were recently involved in a project where we upgraded the fire safety provisions within more than 180 schools in Qatar to ensure that they were brought up to current international standards. We also provided free fire safety awareness training to the staff as part of WSP’s commitment to support the local communities in which we work
Interview by Emma Procter
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