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LCQ7: Fire safety of mini-storage facilities
     Following is a question by the Hon So Cheung-wing and a written reply by the Secretary for Security, Mr Tang Ping-keung, in the Legislative Council today (June 1):
     Earlier on, the Coroner's Court held an inquest into the cause of death of two firemen who had died while discharging their duties during a fire in 2016 in a mini-storage facility (MSF) at Amoycan Industrial Centre in Ngau Tau Kok, revealing that the complicated layout of the MSF had caused the fire to spread rapidly. There are views pointing out that the Government should take measures to ensure MSFs' compliance with the fire safety requirements so as to eliminate fire hazards and nip them in the bud, and that the Hong Kong Fire Services Department (FSD) should strengthen the training of fire personnel in coping with fire scenes with complicated layouts to prevent the recurrence of similar tragedies. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) as it has been reported that since the occurrence of the aforesaid fire, the FSD has not yet provided fire personnel with corresponding training in coping with fire scenes with complicated layouts, what measures the FSD has put in place to ensure that all fire personnel are better equipped for coping with the situation on such fire scenes;
(2) whether it has considered stepping up targeted publicity and education to enhance the awareness of fire safety of MSFs among MSF practitioners and members of the public, in order that members of the public will only rent MSFs which comply with the fire safety requirements for use, and that members of the public be guided to actively report operators currently not complying with the fire safety requirements; and
(3) whether it has plans to comprehensively review the fire safety situation of MSFs, amend the legislation to target relevant fire hazards, and strengthen the monitoring of and law enforcement against the owners and property management companies of buildings with MSFs in operation in respect of fire safety, so as to ensure the fire safety of the buildings and MSFs concerned?
     Having consulted the Fire Services Department (FSD), the Buildings Department (BD) and the Labour Department (LD), the consolidated reply to the Member's question is as follows:
(1) In response to the No. 4 fire at the mini-storage at Amoycan Industrial Centre in June 2016, the FSD established an Interdepartmental Fire Investigation Task Force (Task Force) immediately after the fire was put off to conduct an in-depth investigation into various aspects. The Task Force subsequently made a number of recommendations to the FSD, covering operational procedures, occupational safety and health (OSH), equipment and tools, and public education on fire safety. According to the Task Force's recommendations, the FSD has implemented a series of improvement measures with a view to enhancing the safety and operational efficiency of fire personnel in handling emergencies. These measures include:
(i) On operational, and equipment and tools fronts, the FSD has enhanced the operational procedures of breathing apparatus (BA), and established the Breathing Apparatus Support Team to provide logistical support in relation to BA operation. It has also introduced new BA ancillary equipment, such as the Firefighter Locator System and retractable BA personal lines, to facilitate fire personnel to carry out rescue operations at incident scenes.
(ii) On OSH, the FSD has improved the arrangement for rest areas at incidents, devised guidelines for members' reference on the frontline work and rest schedules under hot or inclement weather, stepped up members' training in respect of their awareness on heat-related illnesses and relevant preventive measures, and issued Safety Alert Prevention of Heat Stroke and relevant reminders to members upon the issuance of the Very Hot Weather Warning signal.
(iii) On public education on fire safety, the FSD established the Community Emergency Preparedness Division in 2018 to further strengthen its public education and promotion as well as enhancing the public's response capability in the face of crisis or emergencies.
     Besides, on training, the FSD has always attached great importance to the training of frontline personnel. The FSD established the Compartment Fire Behavior Training Unit in 2008, which is responsible for providing regular and continuous training courses and seminars to fire personnel of various ranks with a view to enhancing their knowledge on compartment fire and efficiency of carrying out firefighting operation in different scenarios. The FSD also provides real-fire training to fire personnel regularly at the West Kowloon Rescue Training Centre. That training centre is equipped with real-fire training room, maze-like rescue training room, simulated tunnel and conduit training, and more, providing a diversified training ground with simulated fire scenes for fire personnel, with a view to strengthening their operational efficiency and safety when handling building fire and various fire scenes.
     Moreover, the FSD also established the Incident Safety Team in 2017, which is mainly responsible for performing safety audits at the scene of an incident and conducting periodic quality assurance audits for the work of fire personnel, as well as making necessary modifications of operational protocols and procedures for better alignment of the high level standard of firefighting and rescue training received by fire personnel. Besides, to enhance the effectiveness of logistics operation and support actions to cope with present-day demands, the FSD also established the Tactical Support Unit (TSU) in the same year. Members of its operational team are temporarily attached to the Fire and Ambulance Services Academy for three-week TSU duties, during which they would attend core training programme to acquire different knowledge and techniques in handling various incidents, including meeting firefighting and rescue needs in major and prolonged operational incidents.
     As to the four recommendations made by the Coroner's Court to the FSD (Note 1), the FSD will study in detail the arrangements in implementing the relevant recommendations.
(2) To strengthen the public's awareness on fire safety of mini-storage premises (MSPs), the FSD has set up a dedicated webpage on "Fire Safety of Mini-storage" at its website, providing the public (including MSP operators) with information on various aspects, including potential fire hazards in target MSPs (Note 2) and related abatement measures, enforcement progress, potential fire hazards commonly found in target MSPs, record of target MSPs without common fire hazards, record of convicted target MSPs with Fire Hazard Order issued by courts. The FSD has also produced educational short videos on fire safety of target MSPs and posted them on its Facebook page, so that the public can obtain more relevant information on fire safety of target MSPs.
     In addition, according to the Task Force's recommendation on public education on fire safety, the FSD established the Community Emergency Preparedness Division in 2018 to further strengthen its public education and promotion as well as enhancing the public's response capability in the face of crisis or emergencies.
     Moreover, if irregularities on the fire safety construction (e.g. means of escape, fire-resisting construction, as well as means of access for firefighting and rescue) are identified in target MSPs, the BD will issue statutory orders under the Buildings Ordinance (Cap. 123) to owners of target MSPs requiring them to carry out rectification works. The BD will also register these orders at the Land Registry, imposing an encumbrance on the register. The public may learn about such irregularities through searching the registers. To enhance transparency of enforcement actions, the BD also plans to upload a "List of MSP without Obvious Irregularities" onto its website. Besides, the BD has been promoting building safety through various channels, including websites, social media, pamphlets, TV, radio and public transport. The requirements of fire safety construction and the common contraventions found in MSPs have also been uploaded onto the BD's website. The BD will continue to strengthen its publicity and education efforts.
     On the fire safety awareness of MSP employees, the LD organises courses related to the protection of employees' OSH. Fire prevention measures is one of the many OSH areas covered in such courses to enhance the understanding of different industries (including mini-storage industry) on related OSH requirements. The LD will continue to encourage the mini-storage industry to take part in these courses, and to keep in view their contents to ensure that they meet the need of different industries.
(3) The FSD, the BD, the Lands Department (LandsD) and related departments have been striving to collaborate and take enforcement actions under current legislation against the irregularities identified in MSPs in the territory, requiring MSP operators and owners to abate potential safety hazards as quickly as possible. In respect of irregularities on fire safety identified in target MSPs, the FSD would issue Fire Hazard Abatement Notices to target MSPs according to the Fire Services (Fire Hazard Abatement) Regulation (Cap. 95F), requiring the operators to abate fire hazards within the specified periods. In respect of fire safety construction, the BD would issue statutory orders under the Buildings Ordinance (Cap. 123) to owners requiring them to carry out rectification works for irregularities in target MSPs. As for breach of uses as permitted in land lease by MSPs, the LandsD would issue warning letters to the relevant owners, requiring them to rectify the breach of uses.
     The majority of target MSPs are located in industrial buildings (IBs). As to the overall fire safety (including fire safety of target MSPs) of IBs, apart from the FSD's enforcement in accordance with the Fire Services (Fire Hazard Abatement) Regulation (Cap. 95F), IBs are also required to comply with the fire and building safety requirements applicable at the time of completion of the buildings. To upgrade the fire safety standards of old IBs, the Fire Safety (Industrial Buildings) Ordinance (Cap. 636) (the Ordinance) has taken effect on June 19, 2020. The purpose of the Ordinance is to enhance the fire safety of IBs constructed or those with building plans first submitted to the Building Authority for approval on or before March 1, 1987, in order to provide better protection for the public. The enforcement authority in relation to any fire service installations or equipment of IBs is the Director of Fire Services; while the enforcement authority in relation to the planning, design and construction of IBs is the Director of Buildings. The FSD and the BD will issue Fire Safety Directions to owners and/or occupiers with regard to fire safety measures of buildings under their respective purview and specify the required fire safety improvement works. Under the Ordinance, the fire safety standard of all premises (including target MSPs) in old IBs is also regulated by the Ordinance. Owners and occupants are required to carry out fire safety improvement works in accordance with Fire Safety Directions.
     The relevant departments of the Government will continue to take enforcement action against irregularities identified in MSPs according to existing legislation.

Note 1: The four recommendations are (i) requiring all frontline commanding officers (at the rank of Assistant Divisional Officer or above) of No. 3 fire or above to regularly attend courses on fire management or refresher courses on supervision; (ii) monitoring closely or conducting medical assessment on the risk factors for cardiovascular disease among frontline firemen and station officers over 30 years of age, and providing cardiovascular check-up when necessary; (iii) requiring tenants of industrial buildings to send representatives to attend fire drills; and (iv) conducting a comprehensive review on the dissemination mechanism for internal messages in the FSD.

Note 2: MSPs may operate in various modes. MSP containing cluster(s) of lockers/storage cubicles allowing direct access for the public to store and retrieve articles is target MSP.
Ends/Wednesday, June 1, 2022
Issued at HKT 16:45
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