Jebel Ali Port fire in Dubai: A textbook case of how to fight disasters and inform people

Dubai deserves applause for the manner in which the emirate’s disaster management agencies respond to emergencies. Their priority is to save lives and contain the disaster swiftly, without causing significant disruption of operations.

The latest example is Wednesday night’s fire at Jebel Ali Port, aboard a ship loaded with containers, three of which had inflammable material.

The fire was put out by Dubai Civil Defence personnel in just 40 minutes, without disturbing normal shipping operations at the port. Jebel Ali Port is one of the world’s largest facilities with four large container terminals capable of holding very large shipping vessels.

Managed by DP World, it handles traffic from several Asian and African countries and is among the top ten busiest deep ports in the world. Accidents at shipping facilities of this size are not rare and incidents of collisions, contacts and fire are routinely reported and tracked.

Globally acceptable emergency protocols

What matters is whether globally acceptable emergency protocols are followed, how disasters are averted or contained and how the stakeholders and the public are kept informed about such incidents.

The fire on Wednesday night at Jebel Ali Port is a textbook case of how such events should be handled. While the emergency personnel, including Dubai Civil Defence, Dubai Police and the port authorities were battling the blaze, a dedicated agency was collating information from the ground and informing the world almost in real time.

Even a small incident in Dubai can be blown out of proportion by social media, therefore, effective communication is critical. Minutes after residents tweeted about an explosion, Dubai Media Office, through its twitter account, informed the world about the fire.

In subsequent tweets, the media office kept the residents informed about the progress emergency personnel were making in containing the fire.

The office also tweeted videos from the accident site and assured that there was no loss of life nor were the shipping operations impacted, a message directed at Dubai residents, local and international media and most importantly to the global shipping industry.

The following day, the media office sent out a statement identify the terminal where the incident happened and making it clear that other terminals were not affected.

Government agencies in the UAE are transparent and proactive in disseminating information to public. Just yesterday, an agency in Abu Dhabi apologised to people for unexpected power outages in some areas and alerted about a planned maintenance.

Similarly, under the glare of international media in 2015, Dubai swiftly contained a fire on New Year’s eve at a hotel near Burj Khalifa. At that time too, information about the firefighting and rescue operations was disseminated in a timely fashion.



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