Sunday, December 14, 2008

Dubai's lightning risk soars with highrises

Dubai: With more and more tall structures coming up in Dubai, the chances of a lightning strike is increasing, according to a technical expert.

Sonjib Banerjee, technical director of Duval Messien, a French multinational specialised in Global Protection services, told Gulf News that it seems it is now mandatory to have lightning protection systems which are pro-active, intelligent, remotely monitored and maintenance-free for tall structures.

He said it is a myth that Dubai and the Gulf area are not vulnerable to lightning strikes. He referred to a lightning strike near Burj Dubai on November 26 and said it confirms the need for adequate lightning protection measures for all tall structures.

"The thunderstorm days in the UAE are about 10 per year. This means that, one lightning strike may happen per square kilometre per year in worst conditions, with a minimum of one lightning strike per 7 square kilometre per year," he said.

"A 100-metre-high building of 30 floors is five times more at risk in comparison to 50-metre-high building of 15 floors. This risk factor goes up, as the height of the building goes up," he said.

Banerjee said the probability of a lightning strike is calculated based on utility, type of construction and location of the structure.

Banerjee also said proper earthing is the only "safety valve" in the event of any electrical fault or lightning strike. The key challenge of the industry is to disseminate the latest knowledge in earthing science and to incorporate the latest technology in the country's safety regulations, he said.

"A survey reveals that 70 per cent of the residents in the UAE are at risk of being involved in electrical fires. Use of proper electrical accessories like three-pin plugs and sockets and branded circuit breakers are some precautionary measures against electrical fire hazards," he said.

Banerjee said the issue of electrical safety impacts the community, including the environment. The intelligent community needs to be more aware of each safety component, the options available and how electrical faults are dissipated.

He said all facilities that use electricity are at risk. The intensity of damage depends on the load capacity of each equipment. Faults can strike anywhere and cause an accident.

"We need to have safety measures inbuilt in the system to avert it. Inflammable materials catch fire faster, but they are part of our life at home or work. The consequential damages in both cases are huge," he said.

Safety standards

Standards of electrical safety of structures are defined in various international codes. Banerjee said the structures in Dubai need to follow these codes without compromise. The implication of such compromise may directly affect the safety of lives and assets. It also involves understanding the effect of the structures on the environment.

"In the entire concept of electrical safety system, buildings in Dubai like all parts of the world, must adhere to proven standards. Currently we believe there may be a need to re-evaluate some areas of concern, based on latest available technology and proven science," he said.

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