A conversation with Drew Azzara, NFPA’s new Middle East representative
By Fred Durso, Jr.
The Burj Khalifa is the world’s tallest building, towering 2,716 feet (828 meters) over downtown Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. The building represents the opulence and vitality of Dubai’s construction boom, which is shared by other cities in the Emirates and throughout the Middle East and is evidenced by a proliferation of construction cranes rising against the desert landscape.
With rapid development come fire and life safety issues, and NFPA is expanding its presence throughout the region. In April it hired Drew Azzara as executive director of the Middle East and North African regions to advise the public and private sectors in those areas on adoption of codes and standards. Azzara was former vice president of corporate development for ASTM International and vice president of global services for the International Code Council (ICC), where he furthered ICC efforts in the Middle East and North Africa.
Azzara says he plans to bolster NFPA training and assist with code adoption initiatives. He recently spoke with NFPA Journal from his Dubai office about his new responsibilities.
How would you describe the construction boom in the Middle East?
No more than fifteen years ago, the landscape’s view in Dubai was primarily desert. Today, the city has become symbolic for skyscrapers and high-rise buildings at every turn. The entire region is geared for significant growth. It’s believed that construction and development will continue through 2030. Business conditions are positive here and throughout the Gulf region, and NFPA’s opportunities to improve fire and life safety are significant.
How utilized are NFPA’s codes and standards in this region?
In a number of jurisdictions, NFPA 13, Installation of Sprinkler System, NFPA 72®, National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code and NFPA 101®, Life Safety Code® are used, along with other technical documents. What we’d like to do is increase our presence and expand the use of our codes and standards. I’m the boots on the ground tasked with building relationships with both the private and public sectors on a daily basis. I engage them and highlight the value that NFPA offers.
What NFPA training is being offered in the Middle East?
We’re focusing on NFPA 13, NFPA 72, and NFPA 101. However, we are open to meeting the training challenges and needs of the region. NFPA’s training programs are readily available. This includes the delivery of this information with both language and cultural nuances addressed. There is so much development going on here, and these countries are committed to training their professional personnel in understanding these codes and standards. They would also like a defined career path to certification, something that could credential them and connect them to NFPA from a professional development standpoint.
What are your tactics for fulfilling these goals?
We have to understand that decision making is different here than in the United States. The common goal of improving safety binds all of the stakeholders. You engage officials on the value of codes and standards and how this can help them increase the safety and efficiency of the building construction industry. If they can arrive at definitive codes and standards and use them consistently, it greatly improves their building regulatory system.
Based on my past experience in the Middle East, I’m extremely confident we can move the NFPA agenda forward. It’s all about relationship building. It’s important to have that face-to-face interaction. They know somebody’s here in the region, someone is committed.