Year-end Review of the Fire Services Department
Following is the speech by the Director of Fire Services,
Mr Lo Chun-hung, at the department's 2008 Year-end Review
today (January 23):
year 2008 marked the 140th Anniversary of the Fire Services
Department (FSD). It was also a year of challenges. However,
with our service members’ professionalism, perseverance and
dedication, we overcame the challenges one by one and continued
to provide quality fire-fighting, rescue, fire prevention
and ambulance services to the community.
Fire-fighting and Rescue Service
In 2008, there
were a total of 35 513 fire calls, representing an increase
of 12% (3 875 calls) as against 31 638 in 2007. Also, the
number of No.3 or above alarm fires increased from eight in
2007 to 18 last year.
Last year, 94.7% of building fires were handled within the
graded response time, which is 2.2% higher than our pledged
performance to achieve this time in 92.5%.
Last year, there were six fatal fire incidents, claiming a
total of eight lives. Besides, 371 persons were injured in
fires, and 3 241 rescued. A sad case was the No.5 alarm fire
at Cornwall Court on August 10, 2008, in which two frontline
fire personnel, Siu Wing-fong and Chan Siu-lung, gallantly
lost their lives in the course of fire fighting and rescue.
Their bravery, dedication and selflessness are held in high
regard among our colleagues and members of the public.
The total number of special service calls was 24 398, representing
an increase of 10.5% (2 315 cases) as against 22 083 in 2007.
One notable incident was the sinking of a tugboat on March
22 last year. A Ukrainian tugboat with 25 crew members on
board sank and overturned in the east of Brothers Island after
colliding with a cargo vessel. The difficulties of rescue
operation were intensified by the extremely unfavourable conditions
such as swift currents, low visibility, water depth reaching
37 metres and the overturned cabin of the tugboat. Fire Services
Divers conducted 55 times of search and rescue operations
continuously for eight days, exemplifying their outstanding
bravery and excellent professionalism.
In addition to the challenges associated with the normal duties
of fire-fighting and response to special service calls, frontline
fire personnel in various districts have taken up the work
of first responders, fire hazard inspections, fire service
installation inspections, licence compliance inspections and
community education on fire prevention. A total of 40 719
counts of first responder service were rendered by frontline
fire personnel last year and 30 169 number of patients/casualties
were treated. Amongst them, 38 who had appeared to have no
breath or pulse were resuscitated.
We have continued to step up publicity and education for the
prevention of hill fires. Fire Safety Ambassadors (FSA) from
different districts worked with green groups in launching
the Zero Hill Fire Scheme. Under the scheme, an award would
be given to a participating village if it achieved zero fire
during Ching Ming Festival or Chung Yeung Festival. During
Ching Ming Festival, 195 out of the 197 participating villages
of the scheme managed to hit the target of ‘Zero Hill Fire’;
while in Chung Yeung Festival, 252 villages participated in
the scheme and only two of them did not hit the target of
‘Zero Hill Fire’.
A series of calamitous earthquakes measuring as high as 8
on the Richter scale hit Wenchuan, Sichuan of China on May
12, 2008. The areas were catastrophically ruined and the destruction
was very vast, marked with countless fatalities and casualties.
The ruined areas afforded no delay in rescue. A Special Search
and Rescue Team comprising 43 voluntary members was immediately
set up by the HKSAR government. The team went to Sichuan by
two batches to carry out on-spot search and rescue. Team members
worked under extremely dangerous and adverse conditions in
which severe aftershocks happened from time to time. However,
with their strong commitment and unswerving determination,
a total of 24 bodies were extricated from the rubble. Their
professionalism was met with wide public acclaim.
In line with the increasing public demand for fire safety,
the department has made efforts in further strengthening its
work in this respect.
As regards the enforcement of fire protection, we conducted
a total of 190 296 inspections last year, which included inspections
of fire services installations, food premises, schools, child
care centres, places of public entertainment, drug treatment
centres, fire escapes and ventilation systems. We also handled
complaints about dangerous goods.
After the No. 5 Alarm Fire at Cornwall Court in Mong Kok,
the Government set up an Inter-departmental Task Group consisting
members from the FSD, Food and Environmental Hygiene Department,
Home Affairs Department and Buildings Department. The task
group conducted inspections of all Karaoke establishments
set up in commercial or composite buildings since August 18
last year and the inspections were completed on October 8.
During the period, a total of 303 Karaoke establishments inside
224 buildings were inspected, and a total of 48 warning letters
and 188 Fire Hazard Abatement Notices (FHANs) relating to
damage of fire services installations were issued. The Karaoke
establishments concerned have complied with the FHANs and
warning letters. In addition, the department has instituted
three prosecutions on the obstruction of fire escapes and
the cases are still under process.
To further enhance the fire safety of old composite buildings,
we set up a Special Enforcement Unit (SEU) comprising 17 fire
personnel on October 2 last year. The SEU actively conducts
inspections of old buildings and takes necessary enforcement
actions against any irregularities detected. A total of 117
buildings have been inspected with 54 FHANs and 37 warning
letters issued since the establishment of the SEU.
Since the implementation of the Fire Safety (Buildings) Ordinance
(Cap 572) on July 1, 2007, FSD and the Buildings Department
have jointly inspected 1 394 composite buildings or domestic
buildings, and issued a total of 19 002 Fire Safety Directions.
Apart from enforcement actions, we have continued to promote
fire protection through various activities to enhance public
awareness of fire safety. Open days, fire drills, talks, slogan
awards and radio broadcasting were conducted to achieve direct
communication with the community in an interactive manner.
Furthermore, we took a brand new step by broadcasting the
‘Fire Prevention Campaign 08’ on television, so as to widely
disseminate the message of fire safety to all strata of the
community in a more effective way.
We have continued to synergise with the community in promoting
the culture of fire safety. To this end, the FSA Scheme and
FSA Honorary President Associations have been successfully
operated for many years. As at the end of last year, the number
of FSAs and FSA Honorary Presidents reached 96 324 and 278
respectively. On top of our own fire prevention campaigns,
we are also very grateful that the associations and District
Fire Safety Committees made great efforts in organising fire
safety carnivals and other fire prevention activities in their
own districts, so that the message of fire safety can reach
every corner of the community.
To enhance public concern for the buildings in which they
live or work and to encourage public implementation of building
fire safety measures, a Building Fire Safety Envoy Scheme
has been on trial since the end of 2008. The duties of envoys
include disseminating fire safety messages to occupants of
their buildings; assisting in organising fire drills; ensuring
that the fire services installations of the building are with
proper annual checking, and inspecting and reporting fire
hazard or irregularities. Under the Scheme, training courses
are provided to staff of property management companies, owners
or occupiers of buildings, so as to enhance the fire safety
In 2008, the department received 643 611 ambulance calls,
representing a daily average of 1 763 calls, an increase of
5.2% (31 904 calls) as against 2007. We achieved our target
response time of 12 minutes in 92.2%.
Last year saw a number of ambulance breakdowns due to the
ageing fleet. As a department that provides emergency ambulance
services, we have adopted a series of measures together with
the Electrical and Mechanical Services Department (EMSD) to
improve vehicle reliability and speed up the replacement of
the aged ambulances. The Government has allocated $240 million
for replacing a total of 196 aged ambulances in batches. Of
these new vehicles, the first 100 will be put into service
in 2009, with the remaining 96 becoming available in 2010.
After all the 196 ambulances have been put into service, 80%
of our ambulances will be under the age of two years.
The department has launched the Heart Saver Scheme since 2007.
With favourable public support, we have provided training
on the use of public access defibrillators to staff of a number
of organisations in various sectors, including property management
companies, hotels, elderly homes, government premises, the
Hong Kong International Airport and MTR Corporation. At the
end of 2008, a total of 2 506 qualified persons were appointed
heart savers. The scheme has proved to work shortly after
its introduction. On April 5, 2008, a heart saver from the
property management company of the Grand Century Place in
Mong Kok successfully revived a patient who had gone into
cardiac arrest in the plaza by cardiopulmonary resuscitation
and electric shock with the help of a public access defibrillator.
The department has commended the heart saver for his exceptional
courage and enthusiasm.
To promote ambulance services, the department held the Ambulance
Service Campaign 2008 on September 28 with ‘Together We Save’
as the main theme, together with the message of ‘Your Help
can Save a Life’ on TV and radio, to enhance public awareness
that ambulance crews need the support and cooperation of the
community for delivery of quality ambulance services. Members
of the public can help by indicating their exact locations
when calling for help, giving way to ambulances, showing the
crews to the scene and making room for ambulancemen to administer
Plans in the Year
To further enhance the safety standards of the breathing apparatus
(BA) used by frontline staff., we shall shortly introduce
brand new breathing apparatus which features electronic personal
monitoring system for displaying, monitoring and recording
The trunked radio system has been in use for over a decade
by the department. Though the system is in normal working
order, the department commissioned the EMSD to study the replacement
of the existing radio system a year ago because of the ever-increasing
maintenance fee in recent years and the continuous advancement
in communications technology in the market. The study report
recommends that the analogue-mode trunked radio system currently
in use should be replaced by a digital one to enhance the
voice quality and communications capabilities. In this connection,
we shall seek funding from the Government to replace the system.
On the other hand, we keep up our efforts in reviewing and
identifying more quality tools and equipment to cope with
our needs. Our target is to procure products which excel in
efficiency, safety standards and quality.
of Super - Mini Lifting Bag
Demonstration of Searchcam 2000
of Rescue Support System
of Battery-Operated Hydraulic Rescue Tool
of Self-contained Compressed Air Breathing Apparatus
of 4-Gas Detector
of VanishPoint Syringe & Tramadol
of Emergency Medical Assistant II Town Ambulance
The consultancy report on the Medical Priority Despatch System
has been completed. After detailed examination of the report,
the Security Bureau and the department will consider conducting
public consultation on the implementation of the system. It
is hoped that a consensus can be reached among our staff and
the public to implement the system which will further enhance
the quality of emergency ambulance service.
As regards paramedic ambulance service, we are developing
a computer-aided ‘Quality Assurance System’ to improve the
efficiency and effectiveness of the quality assurance program.
The system is characterised by the automatic data retrieval
function by which service quality will be monitored. The system
is expected to operate by the end of 2009.
To better equip ourselves for possible incidents occurred
in the control point areas, we are planning to conduct joint
drilling exercises with the Fire Protection Office of the
Shenzhen Public Safety Bureau in both Shenzhen and Hong Kong
to step up cooperation.
In respect of diving training, a diving base on Stonecutters
Island will be completed in March 2009. The four-storey training
centre, which costs $140 million, will cover a gross floor
area of 5 500 square metres and provide a safer environment
with advanced equipment for Fire Services diving personnel
to conduct professional diving training. Upon operation of
the base, the rescue efficiency and safety standards of the
diving personnel will be augmented.
We have recruited 420 Fire and Ambulance personnel in 2008-09,
including 67 Station Officers, 11 Ambulance Officers, two
Station Officers (Control), six Senior Firemen (Control),
188 Firemen and 146 Ambulancemen to fill vacancies and meet
service demand. We shall continue to conduct recruitment exercises
to fill expected vacancies arising from natural wastage and
newly-created posts in 2009-10.
FSD witnessed its 140th Anniversary with the people of Hong
Kong in 2008. All along we have adhered to the principle of
serving the community with full dedication and professional
excellence. Last week, we were honoured to have received the
Silver Award in the ‘2008 Customer Service Excellence Award
Programme’ organised by the Hong Kong Association for Customer
Service Excellence. This is strong proof that our efforts
have gained great social recognition. However, there is absolutely
no room for complacency. We shall look for continual advancement
and keep up our unrelenting professionalism to provide quality
emergency services to the community in the future.
January 23, 2009