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2006 Year-end Review of the Fire Services Department

Fire-fighting and Rescue Service

  1. In 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 year.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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 were instituted.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.
Fire Protection
  1. 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.

  2. 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 systems, etc.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.


Ambulance Service
  1. 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%.

  2. As regards our performance pledge, 92.7% of emergency ambulance calls in 2006 were handled within our target response time of 12 minutes.

  3. 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.

  4. 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 and quality.

  5. 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.

  6. 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”.

  7. 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.


Strengthening Community Partnership
  1. 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 remaining districts.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.


Plans in the Year Ahead

  1. 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.
  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  1. 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.
  1. 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 for evaluation.

  2. 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.

  3. The Department will continue to assist the Security Bureau in studying the way forward of the Medical Priority Dispatch System for ambulance service.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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 progress.


Tuesday, January 30, 2007


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