Muscat: Fire safety experts and rescuers have called for smoke detectors to be made mandatory in all Oman homes after a 7-month-old baby was rescued from an apartment without fire safety kit.
Read here: 7-month-old baby rescued from house fire in Oman
Fire fighters and paramedics raced to the family home on Sunday night and rescued the young child and its parents.
The incident has sparked calls for a scheme to install smoke detectors inside every residential home. That call has been backed by doctors, fire safety experts and insurance firms. Even the firefighters - who attend an average 10 call-outs every day - say they should be fitted inside homes, especially as the summer temperatures continue to climb and fire danger escalates.
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The baby was rescued from a house in North Al Hail, Wilayat Seeb, in Muscat. There was no update available on current condition but the injured baby was given medical treatment for smoke inhalation.
According to tweets by the Public Authority for Civil Defence and Ambulance, (PACDA) the house was on fire with some occupants trapped inside.
“The firefighters were able to extinguish the blaze and a 7-month-old in medium condition was given first aid as a result of inhaling smoke,” the rescue service stated in a tweet.
PACDA has been handling ten fire incidents on an average every day since 2011. Car fires have also increased in the past month as temperatures rise. The service has issued an infographic warning motorists about the dangers of driving unserviced vehicles in extreme temperatures.
James Raft, a licenced fire protection engineer from Aman Fire Protection Consultancy, said that installing smoke detectors should be mandatory in all homes in Oman due to unexpected fire outbreaks.
“The standard places to install smoke detectors are in sleeping areas, the hall and outside the kitchen door. If the alarm goes off, it alerts the occupants to evacuate the house immediately and could allow them to go back inside to extinguish the fire if it is a small one,” said Raft.
He added that smoke detectors are inexpensive and work 100 per cent of the time.
A spokesman for PACDA said: “We highly recommend that each house has a smoke detector installed as a precaution to be safer in case a fire breaks out.”
Several experts – including PACDA – have, however, also cautioned that the tradition of burning incense or frankincense indoors could mean smoke detectors are constantly triggered. In that case, fire extinguishers should be fitted.
A PACDA spokesman added: “It is an individual preference, although it only has one negative aspect – almost every house uses bukhoor (frankincense) as it is part of our culture and tradition, so the smoke detector will constantly go off.”
Dr Sandeep D’souza, medical director of Al Hayat International Hospital, said that more fire drills should be conducted in buildings to avoid any fire incidents. “People should also make homes childproof to avoid any types of accidents,” he said.
D’souza also said smaller children should not be left alone at home under any circumstances. “Many apartments have got smoke detection alarms installed in the kitchen but most people remain clueless when the actual fire breaks out,” he said.
R Kumar, another doctor at the private hospital, said that many people have the tendency of not listening to fire alarms. “Residents, especially those in high rise buildings, should not ignore fire alarms as the danger becomes more significant when emergencies occur on higher floors,” he said.
“We would encourage installing fire extinguishers in homes rather than smoke detectors because in homes there is cooking and the use of frankincense so smoke detectors are not practical always,” Philip K Philip, group chief executive officer of the Muscat Insurance Company and Muscat Life Assurance Company, told Times of Oman.
“For insurance the premium is decided after considering all precautionary measures taken to fight and detect fire,” Philip added.
Smoke detectors are mandatory in commercial areas, industrial areas, business establishments, apartments and hotels, but not in homes and barely any in the Sultanate have them.
According to statistics from PACDA, 876 houses went on fire in 2015, up from 755 in 2014, where the most common cause of fires in homes is faulty electrical wiring.
Raising awareness about preventative measures should be a key area to focus on in terms of fire safety as well as conducting regular fire drills to keep occupants prepared.
Vehicle fires also increase in frequency during the summer months, PACDA has warned
According to the rescue service, there were 652 vehicle fires registered in 2015 so far during the summer period compared to 645 in 2014.
PACDA said that the main causes of vehicle fires are due to neglect of vehicles, continuous driving, leaking of oil and fuel, attaching additional equipment and smoking inside the vehicle.