Year-end Review of the Fire Services Department
Fire-fighting and Rescue Service
2006, there were a total of 33,268 fire calls, representing
a decrease of 11.9%(i.e. 4,473 calls) as against 37,741
in 2005. It was mainly because false alarms dropped drastically
by 3,920 cases last year. However, the number of No.3
or above alarm fires increased from 6 in 2005 to 14 last
Last year, 93.9% of building fires were handled within
the graded response time as pledged by the Department,
i.e. at least 92.5% of such calls were handled within
the graded response time.
Fires claimed a total of 14 lives last year. Besides,
380 persons were injured at fires, and 2,107 rescued.
A notable case was the explosion occurred at Wai King
Building in Jordan Valley. The reason of the explosion
was a leakage of town gas from the underground pipes outside
the building. As a result, large amount of town gas accumulated
in the underground space of the building and finally led
to an explosion, causing two deaths and eight injuries.
Eight persons died in residential building fires. Some
of the fires were believed to have been caused by excessive
storage of unwanted articles. Correspondingly, we stepped
up publicity to remind the community of the importance
of household fire safety, and “Enhance Household Fire
Safety” is the slogan of this year's fire prevention campaign.
The total number of special service calls was 21,383,
representing an increase of 2.7% (i.e. 570 cases) as against
20,813 in 2005.
Despite that the number of fires is on the decline, the
work of frontline fire personnel of the fire stations
in various districts was by no means easier. With a view
to utilizing resources more effectively, some fire protection
duties were devolved to frontline fire personnel who have
already been providing first responder service. Since
mid-2004, the duties of fire hazard inspection, fire service
installation inspection and a portion of licence compliance
inspection were gradually devolved to district fire stations.
There are many good points in this new initiative. Firstly,
members of the Operational Commands can have a better
understanding of the building fire service installations
in their respective district, further enhancing our operational
efficiency in case of fire. Secondly, the accuracy of
maintenance certificates can be verified. Thirdly, the
work of the fire service installation contractors can
be monitored in a more effective way. During the year,
the three Operational Commands conducted 346 inspections
of hospitals and clinics, and 4,190 follow-up inspections
of fire service installation. In addition, a total of
464 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 449 Fire
Hazard Abatement Notices were issued and 45 related prosecutions
The number of hill fires is on the decrease, slumping
from 1,663 in 2005 to 1,232 in 2006 (-25.9%). However,
it took over 51 hours for the fire-fighters to put out
the hill fire occurred at Tai Lam Country Park on 1 November
2006. It is a great pity that an area of 460-hectare vegetation
has been destroyed. In view of this heavy damage, in addition
to the stepping-up of our educational promotion, the Department
plans to invite Fire Safety Ambassadors and volunteers
from various districts to help distributing promotional
leaflets on “Prevent hill fire and preserve vegetation”
at private graveyards in the New Territories in the coming
Ching Ming Festival and Chung Yeung Festival.
A new fire station at Kowloon Tong was commissioned this
year. Moreover, the West Kowloon Rescue Training Centre
was commissioned last November. There are nine storeys
in this Centre. From ground floor to the 4th floor, there
are advanced fire-fighting and rescue training facilities
while the other five storeys will be used as a rescue
training tower. In a bid to strengthen the tackling skills
of the fire personnel in different types of fire and disaster,
various training facilities, including four different
types of advanced fire rigs and a series of quality training
facilities are available in the Centre.
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, the Department of Justice is
actively drafting the subsidiary regulations under the
Ordinance. We hope that the draft will be submitted to
the Legislative Council for scrutiny within this year.
As regards enforcement, we conducted a total of 168,880
inspections last year, which included acceptance tests
on fire 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
In 2006, we promoted fire safety message through various
activities, which included large-scale fire safety carnivals,
open days, fire drills, talks, slogan awards, 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 publicity by working closely with the District
Fire Safety Committees.
In order to enhance public awareness of fire prevention,
we recently introduced a publicity campaign called “Hot
Strike”. It will be held on the scene right after a large-scale
fire is broken out with a view to enhancing the awareness
of fire prevention in the neighbourhood while their memory
of the fire is fresh.
There has been good progress in improving the fire safety
of old commercial buildings. Last year, inspections of
190 prescribed commercial premises and 140 specified commercial
buildings were conducted. A total of 823 Fire Safety Directions
and 4,766 Fire Safety Improvement Directions were issued.
Last year, the total number of ambulance calls was 575,666,
i.e. a daily average of 1,577. Among which, the number
of emergency calls was 539,903, representing a decrease
of 1.8%; and the number of urgent calls was 34,771, representing
an increase of 1.7%.
As regards our performance pledge, 92.7% of emergency
ambulance calls in 2006 were handled within our target
response time of 12 minutes.
The Department conducted a Customer Service Survey in
the year. While details of the survey results are still
under analysis, the preliminary results are very encouraging.
In general, over 96% interviewed patients or their family
members are satisfied with the overall service provided
by ambulancemen, ambulances and mobilizing officers. Great
credit should be given to the ambulance personnel for
such an excellent achievement. I would like to take this
opportunity to express my heartfelt gratitude to them.
To signify that the ambulances of the Department are fully
equipped and manned at paramedic level, a blue hexagonal
star called “Star of Life” has been affixed to the body
of most our ambulance. The symbol shows that the paramedic
service provided by the Department has reached international
standard, and it is also an assurance for professionalism
To strengthen ambulance officers’ frontline management,
the Department has conducted a 3-month trial programme
on the operation of rapid response vehicles since 1 November
2006. The two rapid response vehicles used in the trial
programme are each operated by an ambulance officer. The
two officers are stationed at Tai Po Ambulance Depot and
Fanling Ambulance Depot respectively. Their main duties
are to take up the role of a Clinical Support Officer
by assuring the quality of ambulance service. Moreover,
when it is expected that no ambulance or ambulance aid
motorcycle can arrive at the scene of incident within
10 minutes, the two officers will act as ambulance personnel
by attending to such emergency ambulance calls. This may
also have them enrich their combat experiences. If necessary,
they will also handle and take command of large-scale
ambulance operations. The trial will be extended to the
coming financial year.
When ambulances are despatched to the scene of incident
or conveying patients to hospitals, the cooperation of
road users by giving way to ambulances is of crucial importance,
so that ambulance personnel can arrive at the scene of
incident in the most speedy manner to handle patients.
To this end, the theme of the promotion video of ambulance
service this year is - “Give Way to Ambulances”.
The construction work for the new Kwai Chung Ambulance
Depot and that for the Kowloon Tong Ambulance Depot have
completed and these two depots have come into operation
since January 2006 and early January this year respectively.
The year 2006 saw a continuous extension of the Fire Safety
Ambassador Scheme to district level. A total of 12,583
Fire Safety Ambassadors were recruited last year, among
them 232 were trained as Fire Safety Ambassador Trainers.
【There are now 77,866 Fire Safety Ambassadors and 5,299
Fire Safety Ambassador Trainers in total.】 Furthermore,
Fire Safety Ambassador Honorary President Associations
are established one after another, with the main objective
of promoting the Fire Safety Ambassador Scheme and its
activities through the assistance of community leaders
who have rich experience in community services as well
as good community relations. Up till the end of 2006,
14 District Fire Safety Ambassador Honorary President
Associations have been established, namely, Eastern District,
Wan Chai, Islands, and Southern District on Hong Kong
Island, Yau Tsim Mong, Wong Tai Sin, Sham Shui Po, Kwun
Tong, and Kowloon City in Kowloon, as well as the North
District, Tsuen Wan, Kwai Tsing, Sha Tin, and Tai Po in
the New Territories, with a total of 189 appointed Honorary
Presidents. We will continue to extend the scheme to the
Since its establishment in 2002, the Fire Services volunteer
team has recruited almost 400 team members. More than
16,600 voluntary service hours has been contributed by
the team so far. To extend the service scope of the team,
the Department has launched an “After - fire Service”
to help victims with financial difficulties rebuild their
homes after fire or accidents, so that they may feel love
and care in times of misfortune. The Department has recruited
about 70 volunteers with fitting-out skills. Moreover,
about 170 staff members have signed up for providing support
services. In addition, we have received a total donation
of $1.11 million for this scheme from our generous donors
in showing their great support. The targets of this trial
scheme are residents of public housing. Since September
2006, the team has assisted three families in rebuilding
their homes damaged by fire. To give full play to their
support, the generous donors are invited to serve as the
team’s honorary advisors, giving advice to the team in
the future. The team has become a charitable organization
as approved by the Inland Revenue Department. Donors may
then enjoy tax deduction.
The World Firefighters Games, which was successfully held
in February 2006 and won recognition worldwide, attracted
over 3,300 participants from 37 countries and areas to
Hong Kong. Despite that there was no government subsidy,
we received generous sponsorship from the ardent community.
Not only were we able to cover the expenses for the event,
but there was also a large amount of surplus which we
later donated to a number of charities and organizations,
including the medical schools of Hong Kong University
and Chinese University. For public benefits, the donations
to the medical schools are used to sponsor research in
the treatment of burns.
With the commissioning of the Ngong Ping 360 cable car
system, and to meet the challenges arisen from the cable
car system in the Ocean Park and the gondolas used for
external walls of high-rise buildings, the Department
has procured some more professional high-rise rescue equipment
so as to enhance operational efficiency. To enhance the
professionalism of rescue work, the Department is inviting
overseas experts for technical exchange in this area.
To step up the performance and capability of the Special
Rescue Squad, we are making arrangement for procuring
advanced heavy-duty search equipment in order to enhance
our efficiency in dealing with large-scale rescue incidents
such as building collapse. Moreover, with a view to upgrading
our occupational safety to a level commensurate with the
latest international standard, we have completed the review
on our breathing apparatus and a full-scale replacement
is in the pipeline.
To effectively identify and ascertain the presence of
accelerant at fire scenes, the Department purchased two
dogs that had received three-month basic training in fire
investigation last September. Two Senior Station Officers
were selected to attend a 4-week training course in UK
last October. They received another two weeks of advanced
training from the UK instructors after coming back to
Hong Kong and the training was completed on 8 December
2006. The two fire investigation dogs are expected to
have six years of service span, during which continuous
training will be given by the two handlers to increase
their ability. Two Fire Investigation Dog (FID) Teams,
each of which comprises a FID handler and a fire investigation
dog, are formed and will provide service in the near future.
The Fire Safety (Buildings) Ordinance enacted in 2002
is expected to be enforced July this year to improve the
fire safety installation and equipment in old composite
buildings and domestic buildings. Since over 9,000 buildings
are involved, a phased implementation programme will be
adopted. Phase I involves composite buildings constructed
before 1973. Taking into account that some of these buildings
cannot meet the relevant fire safety requirements due
to limited space or structural problems, the Department
will take a flexible and pragmatic approach in the implementation.
The Department and the Buildings Department will play
an active role in providing technical advice to owners
to help them comply with the Fire Safety (Buildings) Ordinance.
Owners in financial need may apply for loans through the
Fire Safety Improvement Loan Scheme.
With a view to further enhancing the waterproofing and
thermal insulating performance of the protective overcoat
for ambulance personnel, the Ambulance Command conducted
a study in May 2005 for the replacement of the existing
overcoat. Subsequent to data gathering and extensive consultation
with frontline ambulance personnel, an overcoat with new
style and fabric will replace the existing one and bring
ambulance personnel a new image. Overcoat supplier has
just delivered the first batch of samples which will soon
be distributed to the ambulance personnel at various districts
If patients suffering from heart disease, the number two
killer in Hong Kong, receive appropriate initial treatment
within the first “critical five minutes”, their chance
of survival will greatly increase. In view of this, the
Department is considering a plan to request operators
of public places to provide external defibrillators for
emergency use by members of the public. In November 2006,
the plan was first introduced to the Council of the Hong
Kong Association of Property Management Companies.
The Department will continue to assist the Security Bureau
in studying the way forward of the Medical Priority Dispatch
System for ambulance service.
The Department has obtained approval from the Security
Bureau to conduct open recruitment of 318 posts in 2007/08
to fill vacancies and meet the increasing service demand.
The Education and Manpower Bureau and the Department have
formed a Steering Committee to set up a “qualifications
framework” for both the fire and ambulance personnel.
The purpose is to provide multiple channels of learning
for our staff and to encourage them to pursue life-long
learning, enhance their professionalism and develop their
potential so as to build a better future for themselves
as well as providing better public service.
We have also commissioned the Chinese University of Hong
Kong and the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology
to design an “aptitude test” and a “personality test”
respectively. We plan to include the tests in future recruitment
exercises to select more suitable candidates.
On the management front, we have adopted the “5-S”, a
simple and easy-to-learn system, to improve our management.
The 5-S stands for “structurise”, “systematise”, “sanitise”,
“standardise” and “self-discipline”. By implementing these
five simple rules, we aim to improve management and efficiency,
as well as to ensure occupational safety and health, and
to promote environmental protection. At present, over
40 units are implementing the 5-S on a trial basis.
In June 2006, the Financial Committee of the Legislative
Council approved the funding for building a Diving Training
Centre at Stonecutters Island. The project commenced in
November last year and is expected to complete by 2009.
Regarding new facilities, the fire station and ambulance
facilities at Shenzhen Bay Control Point, the fireboat
station on Cheung Chau Island, the ambulance depot at
Lok Ma Chau Spur Line will be completed this year, while
the plan for an ambulance depot at Mei Lai Road is in
January 30, 2007