LEDs safe, experts say after hotel fire

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 29 April, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 29 April, 2012, 12:00am


A luxury hotel in North Point remains partially closed a week after a rooftop blaze forced the evacuation of hundreds of guests and sparked fears about the safety of light-emitting diode (LED) displays on buildings.

But Hongkongers had no need to worry, Professor Choi Hoi-wai from the University of Hong Kong's Electrical and Electronic Engineering Department said.

The LED advertising display on the roof of the Harbour Grand Hong Kong has been pinpointed as the source of the blaze, apparently because of an electrical short circuit caused by water seepage, though the Fire Services Department is still investigating what caused the fire.

The five-star hotel on Oil Street said a restaurant and executive lounge on its top floor, the 41st, would be closed until further notice, as would a spa and massage centre on the 7th floor, which was damaged by flaming debris falling from above.

The fire broke out at 3am on April 21, sending about 1,000 guests out onto the streets, although no one was injured. Firefighters took four hours to douse the flames. The incident triggered concerns about the regulation of outdoor LED signs on rooftops and shopping malls.

'An LED display by itself is not a fire hazard because it runs on low voltage and is energy efficient, so it generates very little heat,' Choi said.

'The only way it could have caused a fire is if the power supply in the back was not in a waterproof container. These safety regulations would apply to any electronic appliance. An LED display is no more of a fire hazard than any other outdoor electronic appliance.'

Randy Green, director of Lighthouse Technologies, noted that LED displays made according to international standards would feature fire-resistant materials.

'There is an international safety standard that products must be self-extinguishing. This means even if it caught fire, it would not spread,' said Green, whose company made a large LED display at APM mall in Kwun Tong, but not the one atop the Harbour Grand hotel.

James To Kun-sun, chairman of the Legislative Council's security panel, suggested letting the Fire Services Department take charge of approving the installation of large LED displays.

This responsibility now falls to the Buildings Department, which ensures that advertising signs are made of fire-resistant materials and a fireman's switch is installed nearby.