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2005 Year-end Review of Fire Services Department

Following is the full text of the speech by the Director of Fire Services, Mr. KWOK Jing-keung, at the department's year-end review for 2005 today (January 17):

Our Friends from the Press,

Welcome you all to today's press conference. I would like to give you a general review of the work of the Fire Services Department in the three major programme areas in 2005, and then the way forward of our future development.

Fire-fighting and Rescue Service


In 2005, there were a total of 37,741 fire calls, an increase of 2,649 or 7.5% when compared with 35,092 calls in 2004. False alarms surged by 4,022 cases, mainly because there were many days of unstable weather. There were 4,884 fires caused by human factors, representing a drop of 1,562 cases. Such cases were commonly caused by welding sparks, children playing with fire, careless handling of the fire of cooking stoves, disposal of joss sticks, joss paper and candles, as well as careless handling or disposal of ignition sources.



Last year, 89.17% of building fires were handled within the graded response time of six minutes. There were a total of 3,481 cases in which fire appliances could not reach the scenes within the target response time, due mainly to the increase in fire calls and traffic congestion. Other factors included the operational problems of the Third Generation Mobilising System in the initial stage, long travel distance and inclement weather.



The total number of No. 3 or above alarm fires was six. A relatively notable No. 4 alarm fire occurred at a high-rise building under construction in West Kowloon. As the fire scene was on the 45th floor of the building where there was a large quantity of construction materials and timber formwork, the fire spread quickly. Worse still, there was power failure in the construction site during the fire. As a result, the operation of the temporary booster pumps was affected and the firemen had to lay hoses and deliver light pumps to the upper floors for fighting the blaze.



Fires claimed 15 lives last year, with 363 people injured but fortunately 3,834 were rescued. The number of injured was lower than that of the previous year which stood at 405. Four Fire Services members were injured in the course of fire-fighting.



Twelve people died in residential building fires last year. Some of the fires were believed to have been caused by excessive storage of unwanted articles. We responded promptly by stepping up publicity to remind the community of the importance of fire safety at home. Household fire safety was also highlighted in this year’s fire prevention campaign.



As for special service calls, 20,813 cases were recorded, representing an increase of 3.8% (i.e. 754 cases) as compared with 20,059 cases in 2004, mainly because the number of “shut-in-lift” cases caused by power failure and mechanical failure rose by 559 and the number of false alarms with good intent increased by 447.



Besides fire-fighting and rescue duties, members of the Operational Commands have to take up more extra duties. During the year, the three Operational Commands conducted 344 inspections of hospitals and clinics, and 3,187 follow-up inspections of fire service installations. In addition, a total of 423 consultations or talks for hospitals and clinics were held. In response to the cases involving obstruction to means of escape and locking of exits, a total of 571 Fire Hazard Abatement Notices were issued and 54 related prosecutions were instituted. Starting from last year, members of the Operational Commands have also taken up inspections of fire safety requirements at places or premises for issuance of temporary public entertainment establishment licences and renewal of dangerous goods store licences.



The First Responder Programme has been implemented for two years. Last year, First Responders attended 13,751 cases. This programme will be further extended, and it is expected that a second fire appliance in each of the 64 selected fire stations will be manned by First Responders.


Fire Protection


The Fire Services (Amendment) Ordinance 2003 and the Fire Services (Fire Hazard Abatement) Regulations have come into effect on 1 January 2003. The new legislation confers on Fire Services personnel more power to investigate fires and combat illegal refueling activities. Last year, the number of prosecution cases related to the new legislation amounted to 175. Among the successful prosecutions, the maximum fine and maximum penalty upon conviction were $20,000 and 6-month imprisonment respectively.



In order to make the provisions under the Dangerous Goods Ordinance (including those relating to the classification, labeling and packing of dangerous goods) tally fully with international standards, we are now working with the Security Bureau and Department of Justice on the amendments to the subsidiary regulations under the Ordinance. It is expected that the proposed amendments will be submitted to the Executive Council for discussion within this year.



As regards enforcement, we conducted a total of 170,675 fire safety inspections last year, which included acceptance tests on fire services equipment and installations, inspection of food premises, schools/child care centres/places of public entertainment/drug treatment centres, handling of complaints about dangerous goods and checks on fire escapes and ventilation systems, etc.



Last year, together with the licensing authority, we stepped up our communication with the trade, and put forward a series of improvement measures in licensing procedures. The time for processing various types of licence applications has been shortened. For instance, the time required for issuing fire safety requirements for “food factory”, “child care centre”, etc., was 24 to 30 working days in the past. With effect from 1 January 2006, it is shortened to within 20 working days.



We are examining the various aspects of a Third Party Certification Scheme, under which fire service installation testing and certification will be taken up by a professional third party in a bid to step up the certification procedure. Aspects under study include the criteria for qualified personnel, arrangements for implementation, systems of monitoring and necessary amendments to related Fire Services legislation.



The year 2005 saw a continuous extension of the Fire Safety Ambassador Scheme to district level. A total of 10,710 Fire Safety Ambassadors were recruited last year, among them 265 were trained as Fire Safety Ambassador Trainers. Furthermore, the Fire Safety Ambassador Honorary President Scheme has been launched, with the main objective of promoting the Fire Safety Ambassador Scheme and its activities through the assistance of community leaders. Yau Tsim Mong District was the first district to implement the scheme in January 2005. Up till the end of 2005, eight District Fire Safety Ambassador Honorary President Associations have been established, namely, Yau Tsim Mong, Wong Tai Sin, Sham Shui Po, Kwun Tong, Kowloon City, the North District, Sha Tin and Wan Chai, with a total of 96 Honorary Presidents appointed. We will continue to extend the scheme to the remaining 10 districts in the future.



In 2005, we promoted fire safety messages through various activities, which included large-scale fire safety carnivals, open days, talks, quizzes, etc., so as to have direct communication with the community in an interactive manner. Furthermore, we disseminated fire safety messages to various strata of the community via diverse channels, such as television publicity, radio broadcasting and the internet. We will continue to step up fire safety publicity by working closely with the District Fire Safety Committees.



There has been good progress in improving the fire safety of old commercial buildings. Last year, inspections of 190 prescribed commercial premises and 148 specified commercial buildings were conducted. A total of 950 Fire Safety Directions and 5,801 Fire Safety Improvement Directions were issued. As the Fire Safety (Buildings) Ordinance has not been put into effect, the Department, in the interim, can only advise the owners or occupiers of composite buildings to consider including fire safety installation improvement works in their large-scale maintenance plans. Last year, a total of 900 composite buildings were inspected and advisory letters were issued to the owners or occupiers concerned.

Ambulance Service


Last year, the total number of ambulance calls was 584,882, i.e. a daily average of 1,602. Among which, the number of emergency calls was 549,866, representing an increase of 2.5%; and the number of urgent calls was 34,175, representing a decrease of 8%.



As regards our performance pledge, 89.6% of emergency ambulance calls in 2005 were handled within our target response time of 12 minutes. The increased number of calls, weather and long travel distance were reasons why the performance fell short of the target. The initial performance of the Third Generation Mobilising System also had a bearing. However, judging from the figures in the last three months, there has been an improvement in the target performance.



As scheduled, full paramedic ambulance service has been implemented since March. In other words, all ambulances are manned by ambulance personnel with Emergency Medical Assistant II qualifications.



The construction of the new depots at Mong Kok and Kwai Chung is complete. They will be commissioned in mid-January and early February respectively.


Work Plans for the Coming Year


The Department has applied for the approval of open recruitment of over 300 posts in 2006-07 to fill vacancies and to meet service demands.



In December 2005, the Security Bureau has set up a Priority Dispatch System Steering Committee to scrutinise the results and recommendations of the consultancy. The Committee comprises Fire Services personnel, Legislative Councillors, emergency treatment experts and academics, and representatives from various Fire Services unions. Public consultation will be conducted once the Committee has come up with concrete proposals.



The Security Bureau, Hospital Authority, Auxiliary Medical Service and the Fire Services Department are discussing on plans to pass on part of the urgent transfer service between hospitals to the AMS, so that ambulance personnel can concentrate more on emergency ambulance services.



To improve emergency ambulance services, the Department plans to commission a customer satisfaction survey to gain a better understanding of public needs, in the hope that the best possible service will be provided.



The West Kowloon Rescue Training Centre is now under construction and it will be commissioned in mid-2006. Four different types of advanced fire rigs and a series of excellent training facilities will be available in the Centre. Fire Services personnel will receive training in a simulated real-fire environment so as to enhance overall operational efficiency.


A funding application will be submitted to the Finance Committee of the Legislative Council for the provision of a diving training centre within this financial year. If approval is granted, the construction will commence by the end of this year. In the future, the Department can provide a safe and well-equipped training environment for staff members who aspire to join the diving rescue work.



We will continue to adopt ways for improving the work environment and measures for quality management in a bid to improve the efficiency of various units. A pilot scheme was launched in several units last year. This year, 44 units have been selected to join the scheme.



The Department is now considering to extend the service scope of the Fire Services volunteer team to provide basic after-fire renovation service to fire victims to help them rebuild their homes. This meaningful service has gained initial support from our staff. Detailed arrangements are being worked out.



The Department will jointly hold the 9th World Firefighters Games in February with the Institution of Fire Engineers (Hong Kong Branch). Up till now, over 1,400 participants from more than 30 overseas countries/ regions have signed up for the Games. Some of them will also attend the international fire conference to be held three days prior to the Games. The preparation work is underway smoothly.


Tuesday, January 17, 2006


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