Addressing safety questions raised after a weekend evacuation of Hyatt Plaza, officials there have told Doha News that they are working to replace substandard electrical components inside the mall.
Shoppers were told to exit the mall after a fire alarm went off on Saturday evening.
According to Feroz Moideen, Hyatt Plaza’s general manager, the alarm originated from the Al Meera store (formerly known as Giant). There, smoke from a malfunctioning transformer set off an alarm just before 8pm:
“We are doing renovations on Al Meera – we’re removing the ceiling and putting a new one in. During the work, one of the hanging transformers which connect to the ceiling lights had some smoke coming out of it.
This was enough to set off one smoke alarm, and one of our security staff then broke the glass on one of our alarms by the tills. This meant that Civil Defense were called automatically, even though there was no fire and the smoke stopped quickly.”
Moideen blames the metal coil inside the transformer for the incident. He added that the mall is aware of the risks of such components, and that it is trying to replace as many suspect fittings as possible.
”We’re working to change as many as we can to electronic transformers rather than metal ones, because these metal ones produce heat. It’s this heat that caused the smoke.”
The malfunctioning of electrical components is a common cause of fires here, including last year’s fatal blaze at Villaggio mall. That fire began when flammable components inside a florescent light bulb in a Nike shop came into contact with the hot plastic of the insulators within the device, fire experts found.
A “false alarm”
Qatar resident Jesus Montiel, who was inside the mall at the time, said that he felt the evacuation was handled badly:
No clear direction by the mall authorities followed by the fire alarm at Hyatt Plaza
Moideen, however, said that the evacuation followed the mall’s fire procedures, which state that an automatic evacuation following a “false alarm” should be as relaxed as possible to avoid panic.
“When the alarm comes on, customers get panicked, and if there isn’t a fire (and this is checked out by our fire wardens and CCTV), then we try to relax. We don’t try to push people out,” he said.
To reassure shoppers that Hyatt Plaza takes safety seriously, Moideen showed Doha News a lengthy document detailing the mall’s emergency procedures, which were revised by international agency Velosi immediately after the Villagio fire.
Other measures the mall has taken to improve safety include holding two emergency fire drills last year (one is legally required); hiring fire wardens to work each shift; making evacuation plans visible throughout the mall; linking their fire alarm system directly to Civil Defense; and installing a sprinkler system that includes devices in between the ceiling and the floor above.
Meanwhile, an in-depth report produced by journalism students on the failings during the Villaggio fire questions whether that mall and many other buildings in Qatar are safe for residents.
Credit: Top photo by Jesus Montiel on Twitter