Scant regard for fire safety in vehicles

MUSCAT: Safety experts say motorists in Oman do not follow guidelines on the prevention of fire in vehicles, adding that mere installation of equipment is not enough. Climatic conditions and geography (long drives) of Oman make it prone to incidents such as vehicle fires, which can still be avoided if motorists take guidelines seriously. According to a source at ROP, having a fire extinguisher and having it tested by authorised personnel every six months is a necessity. “What we have noticed is people do install fire extinguishers because either they do come by default or it is mandatory by law. But they do not bother to check whether it is in a useable condition or not,” he said.
“An extinguisher may be in a working condition or not, but it is necessary to have it tested annually, if not every six months,” said a senior technician at a leading company for fire safety equipment in Wadi Kabir.
“Though fire extinguishers have a lifespan of over 10 years, generally one may not be required to use even once during that period. But still, any equipment used or not needs periodical maintenance,” he added.
“In Muscat, companies dealing with oil and gas sectors and a few others come to us for periodical inspections as they have an annual maintenance contract with us. Private vehicle owners come only if they have been subject to any incidents.”
Manoj Shetty, a resident of Muscat, had one such experience on the Muscat Expressway.
He spotted a sudden smoke and fire from the engine and had to stop the vehicle on the yellow shoulder. “Only then he realised that the equipment was used on some occasion years ago and it was never refilled. I was helped by a passer-by, but could have minimised the damage if the equipment had been in working condition.”
Sulaiman, a taxi driver, said even the taxi drivers sometimes do not take these things seriously. “They have a responsibility towards passengers but never bother unless checked during vehicle inspections.” According to the ROP, causes of vehicle fire include little quantity of water in the
radiator, poor insulation of wires or improperly fixed plugs, cracks in the exhaust, fuel leak from the tank and smoking inside the vehicle.
ROP says, “Fire extinguisher fixed near the driver’s seat is indispensable to put off fire if it ever breaks out in a vehicle.” It urges drivers to comply with vehicle load limit, change oils regularly, don’t drive for a long time continuously without stopping and have the vehicle regularly checked, serviced and repaired. It warns vehicle owners that insurance compensation does not exempt from legal actions. According to the Public Authority for Civil Defence and Ambulance (PACDA), 715 vehicles caught fire in 2015, 802 in 2016 and 894 in 2017, with figures of 2018 not available yet.