UAE marches ahead in reducing risk to buildings from COVID-19 - GulfToday

UAE marches ahead in reducing risk to buildings from COVID-19


Visitors take a selfie near Burj Khalifa, Dubai. File

Inayat-ur-Rahman, Staff Reporter

The sheer scale of impact caused by the COVID-19 outbreak is an unprecedented crisis facing the world. Global population, at the time of the Spanish Flu outbreak in 1918, was a mere 1.5 billion, a fifth of what it is today. With preventative measures taking precedence in containing and reversing the spread of contagion, more than one-third of this current population is living under a lockdown or self-quarantine directives. Given many experts estimate that development and testing of a possible vaccine is likely to take around a year, these quarantine measures are expected by most to last at least for the next few months.

One of the practical issues that dealing with this scenario entails is securing our buildings to mitigate the effects of the virus. As venues in which we conduct our lives, buildings have the potential to be our safe haven. However, left unchecked, they can also be a repository of infection that spreads the contagion like wildfire. Fortunately the UAE is rising to the challenge with several measures to secure the health of residents, through best practices that ensure that effective management of buildings reduces the risk to a minimum.

Authorities in the UAE have initiated several measures to slow the rate of infections and work on containment of contagion. In a series of initiatives the Dubai Economy Department (DED) has launched a series of campaigns to raise awareness and educate businesses and individuals on the best practices they need to adhere to. Social distancing, of course, is one of the key defences against contracting the virus.

The UAE’s Ministry of Interior and Ministry of Health are undertaking initiative, called The National Disinfection Programme, that is focusing on disinfecting streets, public transport and public spaces all across the country. Public Transport has been suspended till Sunday, beginning 8 pm until 6 am. All non-essential establishments in Dubai have been shut down by official directive from the Dubai Economic Development Department, from March 25 to April 8.

The directive excludes essential services, groceries, supermarkets, laundries, automotive workshops, food outlets, banks and pharmacies will be allowed to operate. A ban has been imposed on all gatherings by the National Emergency Crisis and Disaster Management Authority (NCEMA) and residents are being urged to not leave their homes unless absolutely necessary.

Naturally, responding to the risk of infection by staying at home is contingent upon securing the spaces in which mush of the population will restrict their movements. Gulf Today spoke with Prabhu Ramachandran, CEO and Founder of Facilio Inc., a leading technology company in the facilities management space, to gain some insight into what such measures might entail.

“Experts around the globe are unequivocal about prevention being the key to overcoming the Covid-19 crisis and maintaining an unprecedented standard of cleanliness and hygiene in buildings will be key” Prabhu points out. “Ensuring strict adherence to extremely thorough and much more frequent than usual cleaning procedures is the need of the hour. Facility managers must ensure easy access to hand sanitizers and disinfect frequent contact surfaces, such as door knobs, public restroom fixtures, tables, handrails and work surfaces, on a constant basis”.

Underscoring the crucial role facility managers can play, Prabhu draws particular attention to educating and empowering onsite FM staff, as well as tracking visitor traffic into buildings. “The housekeeping, security and other onsite staff are our frontline heroes through this crisis”, Prabhu elaborates. “They need the complete cooperation and support of management through the provision of up to the minute credible information from sources such as the WHO and the UAE ministry of Health, in order to protect themselves as well as effectively implement preventive measures to secure building occupants. Securing the supply of protective gear, such as gloves, masks and disinfectants, against supply-chain disruptions is another critical measure FM service providers can take”.

“Adopting technologies that allow Building owners and FMs the ability to perform critical building operations functions remotely will play an important role in handling this crisis. The fewer people that are onsite, even accounting for diligent social distancing, the better the chance of containing the contagion and ensuring the highest possible safety for staff that are present in the building. In this context, technologies that provide transparency into operations, as well as remote command and control, emerge as a vital aspect of an effective response”, Prabhu continues.

Related articles