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2008 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):

The 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 Video 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.

Fire Protection Video Fire Protection

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 standard.

Ambulance Service Video Ambulance Service

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 treatment.

Plans in the Year Ahead Video Plans in the Year Ahead

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 condition status.

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.

Demonstration of Super - Mini Lifting Bag Demonstration of Super - Mini Lifting Bag

Demonstration of Searchcam 2000
Demonstration of Searchcam 2000

Demonstration of Rescue Support System Demonstration of Rescue Support System

Demonstration of Battery-Operated Hydraulic Rescue Tool Demonstration of Battery-Operated Hydraulic Rescue Tool

Demonstration of Self-contained Compressed Air Breathing Apparatus Demonstration of Self-contained Compressed Air Breathing Apparatus

Demonstration of 4-Gas Detector Demonstration of 4-Gas Detector

Demonstration of VanishPoint Syringe & Tramadol Demonstration of VanishPoint Syringe & Tramadol

Demonstration of Emergency Medical Assistant II Town Ambulance Demonstration 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.

Friday, January 23, 2009


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