New safety audit team and support unit to be set up by Hong Kong Fire Services Department in wake of Ngau Tau Kok blaze

An Incident Safety Team will monitor on-site situations in a fire while a Tactical Support Team will take on major incidents

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 15 March, 2017, 10:15pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 15 March, 2017, 10:18pm

The Hong Kong Fire Services Department will set up a new unit to ensure operational safety and quality in the wake of the fatal Ngau Tau Kok inferno last year.

A source close to the matter said the newly established Incident Safety Team would comprise about 50 people, and that each command post – Hong Kong Island, Kowloon, New Territories and Headquarters – would have four teams stationed round the clock.

It is understood that the team will be deployed for fires that are third alarm or more.

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“The unit will serve as a fire audit and to make sure the operation goes smoothly in accordance with existing procedures,” the source said, adding that each team would be led by an assistant divisional officer.

“The members can offer opinions if needed, such as on operational tactics, but they will not override the commander in charge,” the source added.

In June last year, a fourth-alarm fire broke out in a mini-storage facility house and swept through the industrial building in Ngau Tau Kok.

The 108-hour long blaze claimed the lives of two firemen, sparking calls for a review of the department’s operational procedures, and the city’s fire safety record.

The establishment of the new team came after the department asked for 311 extra headcounts this financial year.

The money for the manpower boost is bundled with the annual budget which is pending approval from the Legislative Council.

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Meanwhile, the source added that the authority would transform the existing Incident and Fire Safety Support Unit into a Tactical Support Team with an extra 50 members.

“Members will be specially trained to handle evacuation and rescue operations in case of big incidents, such as a leak in Shenzhen’s Daya Bay nuclear plant, or if an MTR train is stuck in a cross-harbour tunnel,” the source said.

A spokeswoman from the department confirmed the moves.

She said the Incident Safety Team would also conduct risk assessments at the scene, including monitoring the development of the fire and the affected building structure, to ensure the safety of fire services personnel.

“The tactical support unit will offer support in long and large-scale rescue operations,” the spokeswoman said.