Traditional Chinese Simplified Chinese Email this article
LCQ13: Fire Safety (Buildings) Ordinance

     Following is a written reply by the Secretary for Security, Mr Ambrose S K Lee, to a question by the Hon Chan Hak-kan in the Legislative Council today (December 7):


     I have recently received requests for assistance from a large number of households in the old buildings in Shek Wu Hui, Luen Wo Hui and Tai Po Market, claiming that the Fire Services Department (FSD) is gradually instituting prosecutions against them on the grounds of violations of the Fire Safety (Buildings) Ordinance (Cap. 572) (the Ordinance).  They point out that the structural problems and building design constraints of these old buildings make it difficult to install fire service facilities such as water tanks and hose reels, etc. as required by law.  On the other hand, the absence of an owners' corporation in these old buildings and fragmented ownerships make it difficult for the households to comply with the statutory directions under the Ordinance.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) of the number of prosecutions instituted by the authorities for violating the Ordinance since its implementation in 2007, as well as the penalties imposed on the convicted persons;

(b) given that the authorities indicated that they will adopt "a flexible and pragmatic approach" in enforcing the Ordinance, whether FSD and the Buildings Department (BD) have formulated any internal guideline or code of practice to instruct their frontline staff how to adopt "a flexible and pragmatic approach" in handling the relevant cases;

(c) among those cases in respect of which fire safety directions have been issued since 2007, of the number of cases in which applications were submitted for extending the deadlines for compliance with directions and the main reasons for submitting applications; and the number of applications approved by the authorities; whether they have put in place any appeal mechanism;

(d) given that government departments or organisations such as BD and the Hong Kong Housing Society (HKHS) are currently operating various schemes to provide subsidies and loans to property owners for building maintenance (including fire safety improvement works in buildings, as well as the provision and maintenance of fire services installation and equipment in buildings, etc.), whether it knows, among the applications received by BD and HKHS in respect of such schemes since 2007, the number of applications submitted for the purpose of carrying out the statutory works stipulated under the Ordinance; the respective average amounts of subsidies and loans approved; whether it will consider introducing a dedicated scheme to provide subsidies to property owners to carry out the statutory works stipulated under the Ordinance;

(e) whether it has any plan to review the Ordinance, and give more exemptions to older buildings in response to the views of the aforesaid households; if it has, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and

(f) whether it will in the near future install more public fire service facilities in the aforesaid areas or other areas with more old buildings, with a view to ensuring the safety of the residents?



     The Fire Safety (Buildings) Ordinance (Cap. 572) (the Ordinance) came into operation on July 1, 2007.  The purpose of the Ordinance is to provide occupiers, users and visitors of composite and domestic buildings constructed on or before March 1, 1987 with fire protection which would better meet the needs of today¡¦s society.  There is a significant difference between the fire safety requirements of those buildings at the time of their construction and the present standards.  For instance, installation of an automatic sprinkler system, etc. in the commercial portions of composite buildings was not required by law at that time.  Such buildings are, therefore, not up to the present fire safety standards.

     Since the Ordinance came into operation, the Fire Services Department (FSD) and the Buildings Department (BD) have been conducting joint inspections on target buildings, and issuing Fire Safety Directions (FS Directions) to owners and occupiers with regard to fire service installations and equipment as well as relevant fire safety constructions in these buildings with a view to enhancing basic fire protection measures.  The Director of Buildings is the enforcement authority in relation to fire safety measures in the planning, design and construction of buildings, while the Director of Fire Services is the enforcement authority in relation to the provision or improvement of fire service installations or equipment.

     My reply to the various parts of the question is as follows:

(a) Since the implementation of the Ordinance and up to the end of October 2011, there were eight prosecution cases against building/residential flat owners or occupiers who failed to comply with the FS Directions.  Convicted persons/owners' corporations (OCs) were fined $2,000 to $2,500.  In addition, the court has issued Fire Safety Compliance Orders to some of the convicted persons/OCs, directing their full compliance with the requirements of FS Directions by the deadlines set in the Orders.

(b) & (c) The enforcement authorities are aware that individual buildings might not be able to fully comply with the requirements due to structural or spatial constraints.  On these special circumstances, the BD and FSD have formulated internal guidelines to assist the officers concerned to adopt a flexible and pragmatic approach in enforcing the Ordinance.  The officers concerned may consider dealing with some of the requirements in a flexible manner or accepting alternatives put forward by the owners in light of the circumstances of individual cases and the information submitted by authorised persons.  For example, if there is spatial constraint in the installation of a hose reel system or water tank, the enforcement authorities would consider allowing the installation of an improvised hose reel system (Note 1), and converting the fresh or flushing water tank into the water tank for the hose reel system.

     The enforcement authorities normally give an owner a year to comply with the FS Directions.  If the owner/OC concerned needs more time to prepare for and carry out the improvement works, the enforcement authorities would consider extending the compliance time basing on the justifications provided in the application and/or the scale of works involved.  In most cases, the main reasons quoted are that more time is needed for discussion and raising funds to carry out the improvement works, and there is a plan to combine the fire safety improvement works with the major renovation works of the building.  As at the end of October 2011, the BD and FSD have issued a total of some 82 000 FS Directions, of which over 16 000 have been complied with, whereas the deadlines of some others are yet to expire.  Extension for once or more has been granted to a total of over 33 000 FS Directions.  Any owner who is not satisfied with the result of the application for extension may provide further justifications and request for a reconsideration by the departments concerned.

(d) To assist owners of private buildings in conducting repair and maintenance, the Government, Hong Kong Housing Society (HKHS) and Urban Renewal Authority (URA) have been operating various financial assistance schemes for property owners in need, including the Comprehensive Building Safety Improvement Loan Scheme, Integrated Building Maintenance Assistance Scheme and Building Maintenance Grant Scheme for Elderly Owners.  Fire safety construction works pertaining to the Ordinance have been incorporated into the list of works eligible for subsidies or loans.  The Development Bureau, HKHS and URA do not maintain breakdown of applications submitted for the purpose of carrying out the works stipulated under the Ordinance.  According to their information, the number of successful applications and the average amount approved under various subsidy schemes since implementation until the end-October are set out in the Annex.

(e) As pointed out in parts (b) and (c), the enforcement authorities understand the difficulties that individual buildings may encounter in complying with some of the requirements set out in the FS Directions due to structural or spatial constraints.  The authorities would, without compromising basic fire safety, adopt a flexible and pragmatic approach in handling individual cases and consider whether to deal with certain requirements in a flexible manner and/or to extend the deadlines for compliance of the FS Directions.  According to the experience of the FSD, most of the structural and technical problems concerning the installation of fire services water tank can be resolved, such as by selecting a suitable location for installation (e.g. on top of the existing water tank or the head of rooftop staircase) or reducing water tank capacity.  The FSD and BD are also prepared to meet with the owners concerned or building professionals they have engaged and explain the requirements of fire safety improvement works as stated in the FS Directions so as to assist them in resolving problems they may encounter in the implementation.

(f) The most effective and fundamental way to ensure fire safety in old buildings is to put in place fire service installations and equipment and carry out relevant fire safety construction works as stipulated in the FS Directions issued under the Ordinance.  To this end, the owners/occupiers of buildings should comply with the FS Directions in accordance with the Ordinance and, where necessary, approach the BD and/or FSD when problems are encountered.  The FSD would also continue to enhance public fire safety knowledge and awareness through various channels such as fire prevention activities jointly organised with local organisations, announcements of public interest and booklets on fire prevention, etc.

(Note 1: An improvised hose reel system includes a hose reel water tank with less than 2 000 litre capacity, a hose reel drum installed at a higher position and a hose reel of reduced length.)

Ends/Wednesday, December 7, 2011
Issued at HKT 21:01


Print this page