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2009 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 2009 Year-end Review today (21 January, 2010):

In retrospect, 2009 was a year of new challenges to the Fire Services Department (FSD) in the light of continued social developments. However, with the unswerving professionalism of the service members, who have adhered to the principle of serving the community with full dedication and professional excellence, we managed to provide quality fire-fighting, rescue, fire prevention and ambulance services to the community, despite all kinds of challenges and difficulties.

Fire-fighting and Rescue Service Video Fire-fighting and Rescue Service

In 2009, there were a total of 35,771 fire calls, somewhat similar to 35,513 in 2008. The number of No.3 or above alarm fires decreased from 18 in 2008 to 10 last year.

Last year, 95.6% of building fires were handled within the graded response time, which was 3% higher than our performance pledge of 92.5%.

Last year, 10 persons lost their lives in fire incidents; 271 persons were injured, and 2,901 rescued.

Last year, the total number of special service calls was 25,069, representing an increase of 2.8% (671 cases) as against 24,398 in 2008. In one notable industrial accident that happened on 13 September last year in the International Commerce Centre which was under construction in Tsim Sha Tsui, six workmen were killed. In another incident, a double-decker overturned in Tong Ming Street, Tseung Kwan O on 9 November last year, killing two persons and injuring 34.

A total of 43,619 counts of First Responder service were rendered by frontline fire personnel last year and 32,883 patients/casualties were treated. Among them, 34 who had appeared to have no breath or pulse were resuscitated.

Fire Protection Video Fire Protection

The department has made efforts in further strengthening its work in fire safety to meet increasing public expectation.

As regards fire protection, we conducted a total of 240,845 inspections last year, representing an increase of 26.6% (50,549 inspections) as against 2008 (190,296). The inspections were conducted to ensure fire safety in relation to fire services installations, fire escapes, ventilation systems and licensed premises. Inspections were also conducted in response to complaints about dangerous goods.

There has been grave public concern about the malfunction and poor maintenance of fire services installations. In 2009, we conducted a total of 151,015 inspections on such installations, representing an increase of about 40.2 % (43,298 inspections) as against 2008 (107,717). A total of 2,479 FHANs were issued and 17 prosecutions instituted.

Moreover, the public have also expressed deep concern for fire safety in licensed establishments and old buildings. In order to further enhance fire safety in licensed establishments, inspections of these premises are done from time to time. We have also launched a number of joint operations with relevant Government Departments to inspect Karaokes, upstairs bars, upstairs cafes and unlicensed guest houses. Last year, a total of 39,178 inspections of these premises were carried out with 916 “Fire Hazard Abatement Notices” (FHANs) issued and 44 prosecutions instituted.

To enhance public concern for the buildings in which they live or work and to assist us in improving building fire safety, a “Building Fire Safety Envoy Scheme” has been on trial since the end of 2008. Under the Scheme, owners or occupiers of buildings and staff of property management companies are invited to become “envoys”. Upon completion of a training course, they can carry out four functions, namely, disseminating fire safety messages to occupants of their buildings; assisting in organising fire drills; inspecting and reporting fire hazard or irregularities and ensuring that the fire services installations of their buildings are properly checked every year. At present, a total of 231 are enrolled as Building Fire Safety Envoys. The result is very encouraging.

In order to eliminate hidden fire hazards in old buildings in an effective and comprehensive manner, the Fire Services Department started to adopt a brand new “four-pronged” approach at the end of 2008. The four prongs are: firstly, inviting District Fire Safety Committees, FSAs and the FSA Honorary Presidents to promote fire safety in those old buildings; secondly, setting up a Special Enforcement Unit (SEU) through internal re-deployment to step up inspections of old buildings and take law enforcement actions to eradicate potential fire hazards in each and every building; thirdly, after the potential fire hazards of a particular building are removed, the building should be under regular inspection by Fire Officers in the district; fourthly, the “Building Fire Safety Envoy” of that building will also conduct frequent inspections to ensure that such irregularities will never appear again. The Department has identified some target buildings with constant fire hazards in densely-populated areas like Yau Ma Tei, Tsim Sha Tsui, Mong Kok and Wanchai, to implement the “four-pronged approach”, in a bid to enhance the fire safety standard of the buildings by removing all fire hazards in every possible way. Up to the present moment, 20 buildings have completed all the “four prongs”. Generally speaking, buildings which have undergone this approach can manage to be free from potential fire hazards most of the time. It can be seen that the plan has made initial success. In addition, in respect of the stepping-up of law enforcement, the SEU has issued 798 FHANs and instituted 11 prosecutions in 2009.

We have continued to promote fire protection through various activities to enhance public awareness of fire safety. Last year, we organised the first “Fire Protection Drama Competition for Secondary Students”, hoping that students will learn more about fire safety through the process of information collection, play writing and staging, and that they will disseminate the message of fire safety in schools and at homes. Moreover, we once again broadcast the "Fire Prevention Campaign 09" on television last year, so as to widely spread the message of fire safety to different strata of the community. The viewing rate of this programme reached 1.3 million.

Ambulance Service Video Ambulance Service

In 2009, the department received 659,289 ambulance calls, meaning a daily average of 1,806 calls, and an increase of 2.4% (15 678 calls) as against 2008.

In 2009, 92% of all emergency calls were handled within our target response time of 12 minutes.

To make continuous improvement in our ambulance service, we have implemented various new measures last year, which mainly include:

(i) Stepping up education and publicity to remind the public not to misuse emergency ambulance service. Apart from community publicity work, the department, through television cooperation, produced a one-hour special programme entitled “Ambulance Service Campaign 2009”. The programme was shown on 5 September 2009, with a successful viewing rate of about 1.1 million.

(ii) According to a random analysis of about 10,000 emergency ambulance calls received in 2008, around 10% of the cases did not appear to be in need of emergency ambulance service. The data collected will be used in public educational activities.

(iii) To ensure that the performance target could be achieved in all Divisions, the department redeployed resources and allocated new ambulance shifts to areas in greatest demand. Additional measures included the setting-up of temporary ambulance stand-by points in Kwu Tung, Sheung Shui and Ta Kwu Ling, so as to enhance ambulance coverage for New Territories.

(iv) Among 196 ambulances scheduled for replacement, 113 were put into service in 2009. The average age of the entire ambulance fleet has come down significantly from 8.4 as at the end of 2008 to 4.7 as at the end of 2009. We expect that when all the 196 ambulances are put into service at the end of this year, the average age of our ambulances will be further lowered to less than two years. Furthermore, additional funds are obtained to procure 21 new ambulances and create 120 ambulanceman/ambulancewoman posts. The department will also speed up the process of procuring ambulances whereby the time from bidding of resources to delivery of ambulances to Hong Kong will be shortened to 25 months, a remarkable reduction of 8 months.

(v) We have launched an electronic Ambulance Journey Records System on a trial basis on Hong Kong Island since the end of 2009. The trial will be extended to Kowloon and New Territories in mid-2010. It is expected that the new system will greatly improve the efficiency of quality management.

To further improve our ambulance service, we have introduced a brand-new Emergency Medical Assistance II Motorcycle which will be shown to you in a moment.

Demonstration of Emergency Medical Assistant II Motorcycle Demonstration of Emergency Medical Assistant II Motorcycle

To enhance the emergency ambulance services in the long run, the Administration has planned to implement a “Medical Priority Dispatch System” (MPDS) in Hong Kong. To this end, a public consultation was conducted in 2009 and over 560 submissions were received. According to the result of the consultation, a majority of the public expressed their support of the principles of the MPDS. About 80% of the respondents supported prioritizing response to ambulance calls in accordance with degree of urgency; over 70% of the respondents supported the proposed Target Response Time and Performance Pledge of the three response modes; and over 70% of the respondents considered it useful to provide post-dispatch instructions. The data collected will be under further analysis and study, so as to decide on the implementation details of the scheme with a view to further enhancing the standard of emergency ambulance service. During consultation, the public somewhat had some queries about the MPDS. To this end, we would like to take today’s opportunity to deliver a brief introduction and demonstration in a moment.

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. As at the end of 2009, a total of 3,150 qualified persons have been appointed heart savers.

Plans in the Year Ahead Video Plans in the Year Ahead

As our analogue-mode trunked radio system has been in use for over a decade, we are planning to replace it with a digital one to enhance the voice quality and communication capabilities. As funds have been approved and the tendering exercise is underway, it is expected that the new radio system can be commissioned in mid-2011.

To continuously enhance our efficiency in fire-fighting and rescue operations, we strive to provide advanced skill training for our frontline staff. Regular staff training programmes range from Conduit Search and Rescue, Compartment Fire, Advanced Ambulance Aid to Basic Special Rescue Squad Training which includes Mountain Rescue, Road Rescue, Rapid Water Rescue and High Angle Rescue. In addition, with an aim to strengthening our ability in handling HazMat incidents, we will provide relevant training for a number of members and plan to set up a HazMat Task Force within this year.

Demonstration of High Angle Rescue Demonstration of High Angle Rescue

Demonstration of Road Traffic Accident Demonstration of Road Traffic Accident

Demonstration of Automatic Oscillation Ground Monitor Demonstration of Automatic Oscillation Ground Monitor

Demonstration of New Hydraulic Platform Demonstration of New Hydraulic Platform

Demonstration of New 37m Turntable Ladder Demonstration of New 37m Turntable Ladder

Construction of a new Fire Services Training School of international standards at Pak Shing Kok, Tseung Kwan O, occupying a site of over ten hectares, is in the pipeline. Relevant arrangements and implementation plans are being drawn up in collaboration with other departments concerned. An application for change of land use will later be submitted to the Town Planning Board. The Department will also seek funding from the Administration. If everything goes well, it is estimated that the project will be completed in three years upon approval of funds.

With the continual population growth, large-scale infrastructural projects will be rolled out one by one. In view of this latest development, the demand for fire and ambulance services has been evaluated from time to time. We have planned to construct a new fire station with ambulance facilities on Nam Fung Road, Aberdeen and in the Kai Tak Development Area respectively. A new ambulance depot will also be constructed in Sheung Shui. Furthermore, Lai Chi Kok Ambulance Depot, located at Mei Lai Road, Mei Foo, will be commissioned in mid-2010.

On the other hand, we have installed a Quality Assurance System for paramedic ambulance service. This computer-aided system is characterised by the automatic data retrieval function by which service quality will be monitored. The system will be put on trial this year.

In respect of diving training, the diving base on Stonecutters Island has been in use since its completion in 2009. Advanced equipment for diving training is in place for our diving personnel to conduct more professional diving training. We will invite you to visit the diving base shortly.

To enhance the operational efficiency of our frontline staff and to meet occupational safety and health requirements, we have spared no efforts in improving the uniforms and equipment provided for our staff. The newly designed orange jackets for ambulancemen have been distributed for use early in the year under review. The beret caps currently in use will also be replaced by peaked caps with a brand new design. We will show them to you later.

Demonstration of Orange Jacket for Ambulance Personnel and Baseball Cap Demonstration of Orange Jacket for Ambulance Personnel and Baseball Cap

We have recruited a total of 516 Fire and Ambulance personnel in 2009-10, including 61 Station Officers, 11 Ambulance Officers, two Station Officers (Control), 15 Senior Firemen (Control), 200 Firemen and 227 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 the coming financial year (i.e. 2010-11).

Our efforts in providing quality service for the public have gained great social recognition. In the Civil Service Outstanding Service Award Scheme organised by the Civil Service Bureau, we won a total of five awards, including the Gold Award for Best Public Image - the fifth time in a row as well as the Champion of the Service Enhancement Award - for two consecutive exercises. The championship was mainly attributable to various innovative initiatives in the past two years, including the Building Fire Safety Envoy Scheme and the Heart Saver Scheme mentioned just now, which aim to further enhance our service quality. The Department also received three Partnership Awards - one First Runner-up and two Merit Awards. Furthermore, subsequent to the winning of the Silver Award in the Customer Service Excellence Award 2008 organised by the Hong Kong Association for Customer Service Excellence, we have also participated in the 2009 exercise, the results of which will soon be announced. We would like to extend our heartfelt gratitude to the public for their unfailing support, which has contributed to our achievements mentioned above. Yet, we will never be contented with these accomplishments. Instead, we will continue to strive for excellence with remarkable professionalism in delivering quality services to the public.

The Lunar New Year is coming in less than a month’s time. May I take this opportunity to wish you all a happy, healthy and prosperous Year of the Tiger.

Thursday, January 21, 2010


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