Fire Safety Talks at the Safety Design in Buildings Riyadh Conference in Riyadh – Experts discuss need to unify codes and simplify strategies

Fire Safety Talks at the Safety Design in Buildings Riyadh Conference in Riyadh – Experts discuss need to unify codes and simplify strategies

The conference was opened by Major General Abdullah Ahmed Al-Shugaithri, the Assistant Director General for Safety, General Directorate of Civil Defense who encourage collaboration between the private sector and Civil Defence. Following his speech Dr. Hussain Yahia Al Fadhli, Secretary General of the Saudi Council of Engineers gave a critical assessment of safety standards in Saudi Arabia in terms of safety design, quality technologies, as well as training and development of Saudi engineers. With single Saudi projects reaching dimensions of 2 Trillion SAR, recent and frequent project failures and delays Dr. Hussain sees a clear need to step up the Saudi Council of Engineers mandate for the country.

Major Mohamed Al Otaibi, General Directorate Civil Defense participates in the panel discussion

He announced the establishment of a Safety Society by the Saudi Council of Engineers which is to address the points and ensure a strong local drive. He further announced an international safety conference in 18 months’ time in collaboration with the Ministry of Interior and participation of 1,500 delegates.

More into the technical program Shamim Rashid-Sumar’s presentation entitled “Solving the Fire Alarm Problem: Design and Commissioning of Fire Detection and Alarm Systems” together with Majed Al Mejmaj’s presentation on “Fire Alarm Recognition and Exit Choice in Underground Stations” sparked a lengthy discussion on the culture of fire emergency notification to occupants and their response to fire alarm signals in KSA and the region.

While there is an obvious need to reduce unwanted or nuisance fire alarms in the built environment, it is surprising to note based on Al Mejmaj’s research that a majority of the public in KSA would not recognize the temporal 3 fire alarm signal if they heard it, and an overwhelming majority of the adult generation has never participated in a fire drill.

Major General Abdullah Al Shughaithri, Assistant Director of Safety Gen. Directorate of Civil Defense opens the conference

Aaron Vanney’s discussion on Healthcare fire safety and alignment with hospital operations drove home the point that enhancement of certain fire safety elements such as increased fire resistance ratings and supplementary smoke control systems does not really result in enhancement in a healthcare occupancy, as this could lead to heavier non-functional doors and partitions for the nursing staff to navigate, with negative impact on patient safety.

As a side discussion, the audience engaged with Major Mohamed Al Otaibi regarding the current codes enforced in Riyadh. While there was mention of the Saudi Building Code, Maj. Mohamed clarified that the GCC Code was currently enforced, with selected measures from NFPA where necessary and appropriate.

Altaf Afridi presented real world examples where aesthetics requirements for fire doors pushed the envelope in the design process to achieve compliance of fire doors with applicable code and standard requirements.

Major General Abdullah Al Shughaithri opens the conference (5)

Andy Dean’s overview of glass selection with respect to Façade safety delved into personal comfort and well-being in addition to safety as a focus for windows and natural light in our buildings. Finally, Jonathan Gonzalez gave a brief summary on the importance of conformity and certification in life safety.

Dean’s presentation drew questions from the audience related to plastics as an alternative to glass, the thermal dynamics of glazing and factors that affect solar control. Afridi and Gonzalez’ presentation sparked some questions with regard to rating of certain door assemblies. A key takeaway from this discussion was that ratings of fire doors could only be determined through testing of the entire door assembly.

Conference Chair Andy Dean addresses the audience

Maj. Mohamed further indicated that listings from nine (9) international testing laboratories were recognized as approved authority bodies for fire life safety equipment and products in KSA.

Speaker presentations can be reviewed online at

The Safety Design in Buildings Riyadh conference is part of the GCC-wide Safety Design in Buildings Campaign which is presented in every major GCC city. See for more information.